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Article

Susan Au

[Gennaro, Peter]

(b Staten Island, NY, Jan 14, 1923; d Chicago, Oct 29, 2008). American dancer, choreographer, teacher, and ballet company director. He began to study dance after meeting Robert Joffrey while on military service in Seattle, and continued this study in New York at the School of American Ballet and with the modern dancers May O’Donnell and Gertrude Shurr. He became a founding member of the faculty of Joffrey’s school, the American Dance Center, and of Joffrey’s first dance group, which later became the Joffrey Ballet. He also performed on Broadway and with New York City Opera. After retiring as a performer in 1964, he focused on the choreographic work he had begun in 1961 with the ballet Ropes, to music by Charles Ives. As chief choreographer of the Joffrey Ballet, he created ballets that celebrated the company’s youthful verve and vitality, frequently utilizing scores by American contemporary composers. Among his most popular ballets were ...

Article

Susan Au

[Mercier Philip ]

(b Centralia, WA, Apr 16, 1919; d New York, NY, July 26, 2009). American dancer, choreographer, and dance company director. He began to study dance in his native Centralia. While attending the Cornish Institute in Seattle, he met John Cage, with whom he formed a lasting and productive partnership. He also studied modern dance at Mills College and the Bennington School of the Dance, and ballet at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York. He performed as a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company (1939–45), where he originated the role of the Revivalist in Graham’s Appalachian Spring (1944; Aaron Copland). He first began to choreograph in 1942, and in 1944 presented his first solo concert in New York, dancing to music by Cage. In 1953 he formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with Cage as music director. The two men shared an innovative mindset, which defined the company’s aesthetic mission. The Cunningham school, which trained dancers for the company, was established in ...

Article

Mary Jo Lodge

(b Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec 8, 1939). American director, choreographer, and performer. Trained in classical ballet at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Daniele became a professional dancer at age 14. She performed for several years with ballet companies in South America and Europe and came to the United States in 1964 to learn American-style jazz dance. She made her Broadway debut in the musical What Makes Sammy Run? that same year, which led to several more Broadway roles. She first assisted prominent Broadway director/choreographers Michael Bennett and Bob Fosse before taking the helm herself on numerous shows, first as a choreographer and then adding the director’s role. She choreographed major Broadway productions as The Pirates of Penzance (1981), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985), and Ragtime (1998), and three Woody Allen films, including Mighty Aphrodite (1995). Daniele’s first Broadway production as a director/choreographer was ...

Article

Susan Au

(b Brooklyn, NY, July 5, 1942). American dancer, choreographer, and ballet company director. He studied dance in New York at the School of American Ballet and the High School of Performing Arts. In 1954 he made his stage début at the age of 11 as the child prince in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, with New York City Ballet. He appeared in both the Broadway and film versions of the musical West Side Story (1958, 1961), playing the role of Baby-John in the latter. His early performing experience included modern dance, musicals, and television as well as ballet. He danced with American Ballet Theatre (1963–8, 1971–2), where he created his first ballet, Harbinger (1967; Prokofiev), followed shortly by At Midnight (1967; Mahler); both were highly praised. For his first ensemble, the American Ballet Company (1969–71), he choreographed Intermezzo No. 1 (...

Article

Earle Hitchner

(b Chicago, IL, July 16, 1958). American Irish stepdancer, choreographer, flutist, and producer. At age 11 Flatley began stepdancing lessons at Chicago’s Dennehy School of Irish Dance. In 1975, at age 17, he became the first US competitor to win the All-World championship for Irish stepdancing. Flatley is also a three-time All-Ireland junior flute champion. He released the solo album …And Then Came Flatley (self-issued, 1981; reissued as CD entitled Michael Flatley on Son Records, 1995) and the double-CD On a Different Note (Unicorn Entertainments Inc., 2011). In 1988 he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of his impact on Irish dance in the United States. Flatley’s biggest break and breakthrough, however, came on 30 April 1994, during the Eurovision Song Contest held in Dublin’s Point Theatre. There he and his dance partner, Jean Butler, electrified the seated audience and millions more watching on television with a seven-minute performance called ...

Article

Claude Conyers

(b Philadelphia, PA, May 10, 1943). American modern dancer, choreographer, and company director. She studied with Marion Cuyjet and at the Philadelphia Dance Academy. There, Agnes de Mille saw her in a class and invited her to dance in her ballet The Four Marys (1965) for American Ballet Theater. Jamison moved to New York City, continued her training with several prominent ballet and modern dance teachers, and soon joined the Alvin Ailey company, where she remained as a principal dancer until 1980. Of her many roles, the most remarkable was Cry (1972; music by Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro, and The Voices of East Harlem), a fifteen-minute solo that was Ailey’s tribute to “black women everywhere, especially our mothers.” After leaving the Ailey company, Jamison starred in Donald McKayle’s Sophisticated Ladies (1981) on Broadway, formed her own company, and began to choreograph. Upon Ailey’s death in ...

Article

Claude Conyers

[William Tass Jones ]

(b Bunnell, FL, Feb 15, 1952). American dancer, choreographer, designer, author, and company director. He did not begin his dance training until his freshman year in college, at the State University of New York at Binghamton. There he met Arnie Zane (1948–88), who became his companion and collaborator for seventeen years. After creating their first dance together, Pas de Deux for Two (1973; music by Benny Goodman), they founded American Dance Asylum in 1974, for which they created both individual and collaborative choreographies. Prior to founding the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982, Jones choreographed and performed nationally and internationally as a soloist and as a duo with Zane. In addition to making more than fifty works for his own company, he has created dances for numerous American and European ballet, modern dance, and opera companies. Many of his works are set to music by American composers or to audio collages of music and spoken text. Characteristic of his early work with Zane are ...

Article

Kelley Rourke

(b New York, NY, June 15, 1932). American director and choreographer. She began her career as a dancer and choreographer for shows on Broadway, the West End, and various opera companies. Luchino Visconti, for whom she choreographed La Traviata, encouraged her to pursue a career directing opera. She has a strong affinity for new music, particularly works of a political nature. At Netherlands Opera in 1975, she directed the first performance of Der Kaiser von Atlantis, written by Viktor Ullman at Theresienstadt. She collaborated with composer Anthony Davis and on the premieres of three of his operas: X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, Under the Double Moon, and Wakonda’s Dream. She accepted an invitation to direct the South African premiere of Porgy and Bess in 1996 only after insisting that a black conductor be engaged. Levine directed the world premieres of Bruce Saylor’s Orpheus Descending and Oliver Knussen’s ...

Article

Claude Conyers

(b Seattle, Aug 29, 1956). American modern dancer, choreographer, company director, conductor, and opera director. Taught to read music and introduced to folk dance and ballet by his parents, he was encouraged to pursue a career as a dancer. After moving to New York City in 1980, he formed the Mark Morris Dance Group and unleashed a flow of choreographic creativity of unusual diversity. His body of work, created not only for his own company but for numerous modern dance, ballet, and opera companies in North America and Europe, is acclaimed for its craftsmanship, ingenuity, humor, and eclectic musical accompaniments. Many of his major works are set to the music of Bach, Handel, Purcell, and other European masters, but he has also choreographed important works to music by American composers. Notable are Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (1988; music by Virgil Thomson), Somebody’s Coming to See Me Tonight...

Article

Claude Conyers

(James)

(b Wichita Falls, TX, Feb 28, 1939). American actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, and musical theater director. Enrolled in a tap dance class when he was five years old, he showed obvious talent. This led to classes in acrobatics, modern dance, jazz dance, and, finally, ballet, in which he trained for some years with the intention of making it his career. His aspirations diminished, however, as his height increased (he eventually grew to a height of six feet, six and a half inches), and in high school he focused his energies on staging musical comedies. In college, he appeared in numerous student productions as a theater major, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1962. Just before completing requirements for a master’s degree, he decided to abandon academic studies for the professional stage.

Arriving in New York City in 1964, he quickly found work. He made his Broadway début in Baker Street...

Article

Claude Conyers

(b Kansas City, MO, Dec 21, 1950). American modern dancer, choreographer, and company director. She was trained in various styles of show dancing by Joseph Stevenson, who had been a student of the famed dance anthropologist Katherine Dunham. Zollar followed in Dunham’s scholarly footsteps, eventually earning a master’s degree in fine arts at Florida State University, where she also studied ballet and modern dance. In 1980 she relocated to New York and continued her studies with Dianne McIntyre. Following her childhood bent for making up dances, she founded her own company, Urban Bush Women, in 1984, and began choreographic explorations of the history and culture of African American women in an urban, multi-ethnic environment. Blending modern and jazz dance, her works range in subject matter from Shelter (1988), a piercing study of homelessness, to Batty Moves (1995), a saucy celebration of the buttocks of black women. Some of Zollar’s dances are evening-length works performed to percussive sounds, a capella vocalizations, music by contemporary composers, and the spoken word, arising from librettos written by poets and novelists. Notable among these is ...