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Susan Au

(b Rogers, TX, Jan 5, 1931; d New York, Dec 1, 1989). American dancer, choreographer, and dance company director. He began to study dance at Lester Horton’s studio in Los Angeles in 1949 and went to the East Coast as a member of Horton’s dance company in 1953. After Horton’s sudden death and the company’s disbandment he joined the cast of the Broadway musical House of Flowers (1954), the first of several musicals and plays in which he appeared. In 1958 he assembled a group of dancers to perform his choreography at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA in New York City, and this group eventually grew into the company now called the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His choreographic style combined modern dance, ballet, jazz dance, and elements of social and ethnic dance forms. Many of his works reflect the African-American experience in their themes and music; his best-known work, ...

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Claude Conyers

[Dorothea Moses]

(b Atlanta, GA, April 22, 1904; d Atlanta, GA, Nov 17, 1986). American ballet dancer, choreographer, teacher, and company director. Having suffered osteomylitis in early childhood, she was given ballet lessons to restore her strength. They not only did that but set her on course for her life’s work. Dismayed by the lack of training and performing opportunities for ballet dancers in Atlanta, she vowed to create them if she could. After continued study with teachers in Atlanta and New York, she opened her own studio in Atlanta in 1921 and originated a dance enrichment program in Atlanta public schools in 1927. Two years later she founded the Dorothy Alexander Dance Concert Group and began to present public programs with her pupils. This group eventually became the Atlanta Ballet, the nation’s oldest regional company. From its inception until the mid-1950s, “Miss Dorothy” created some eighty ballets for the company, including lyrical works for adult audiences as well as story ballets for children. Although she usually worked to the music of popular European composers, she sometimes commissioned works from local composers. Notable are ...

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[Gaspare, Gaspero] [Gasparini, Domenico Maria Angiolo]

(b Florence, Feb 9, 1731; d Milan, Feb 6, 1803). Italian choreographer, dancer and composer. Along with his rival Jean-Georges Noverre, Angiolini was one of the principal exponents of the new danza parlante, or ballet en action. He began his dance career in Lucca (1747) and also in Venice (1747–8, 1750–51), Turin and Spoleto (1751), Lucca again, this time also working as a choreographer, and Rome (1752–3) before moving to Vienna. There, in 1754 he married his partner, Maria Teresa Fogliazzi (1733–92), notwithstanding the rivalry of Casanova. During Carnival 1756–7 Angiolini produced ballets for the operas given at the Teatro Regio, Turin, also performing as primo ballerino, partnered by his wife. He returned to Vienna as premier danseur at the French theatre, and when the choreographer Franz Hilverding van Wewen departed for Russia in November 1758, the director Giacomo Durazzo named Angiolini as his successor. Gluck succeeded Joseph Starzer as composer of ballet music....

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( fl 1719–42). Italian choreographer and dancer . He was probably a native of Florence, since he is often cited in librettos as ‘Francesco Aquilanti, Fiorentino’ or ‘da Firenze’. His early choreographic work was concentrated in Venice, where he provided ballets for 17 operas at the Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo (1721–34; including Leo’s Catone in Utica, Porpora’s Semiramide riconosciuta and works by Gasparini, Orlandini, Vinci and others), and for five operas during Ascension seasons at the Teatro S Samuele (1722–35; including Vivaldi’s Griselda). During this time he is also listed as a choreographer in Reggio Emilia (1725, Porpora’s Didone abbandonata) and as a dancer for opera productions in Turin (1727–8, 1729–30), along with Chiara Aquilanti who may have been his wife, sister or daughter. He spent two seasons in Naples as a choreographer, first for operas at the Teatro S Bartolomeo (1736–7...

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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 ...

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Article

(b Omaha, NE, May 10, 1899; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 22, 1987). American dancer, singer, choreographer, and actor. He began performing at the age of seven with his sister Adele. As a duo they worked in vaudeville from 1906 to 1916 and moved to Broadway in 1917. Starring roles in The Bunch and Judy (1922) and For Goodness Sake (1923) led to Lady, be good! (1924), which marked their arrival as top Broadway stars. During the 1920s several of the Astaires’ successful shows appeared in the West End in London, where the pair enjoyed a cult-like following. After The Band Wagon (1931) Adele retired from the stage to marry an English aristocrat. Astaire appeared in Gay Divorce in New York (1932) and London (1933), before signing a contract with RKO, the smallest major film studio in Hollywood....

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Paul R. Laird

[Avedisian, Robert]

(b New York, NY, Dec 26, 1937). American dancer, choreographer, producer, and director. After simultaneous study at Boston University and the Boston School of Ballet, Avian appeared in a touring production of West Side Story. He met MICHAEL BENNETT during the show’s European tour; they became friends and long-time artistic and business partners. Avian was in West Side Story (1960) on Broadway, followed by Funny Girl (1964). He was assistant stage manager for I Do! I Do! (1966), then performed in Henry, Sweet Henry (1967). Avian collaborated with Bennett for two decades on a remarkable succession of shows. He was assistant choreographer to Bennett for Promises, Promises (1968), associate choreographer for Coco (1969), Company (1970), and Follies (1971), and production assistant for the play Twigs (1971), which Bennett directed. Avian served as associate choreographer for ...

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[Gyorgy Melitonovich ]

(b St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan 22, 1904; d New York, NY, April 30, 1983). Dancer, choreographer, teacher, and ballet company director of Russian birth, active in the United States. He was trained at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, where he created his first choreography. He also studied piano and music theory at the Petrograd Conservatory of Music, gaining a firm musical foundation. After graduating in 1921, he danced in the ballet company of the State Theater of Opera and Ballet, and choreographed for his own ensemble, the Young Ballet. In 1924 he left Russia for western Europe, where he joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. After the company disbanded following Diaghilev’s death in 1929, he worked in Europe until 1933, when he came to the United States at the invitation of Lincoln Kirstein. The two founded the School of American Ballet in New York in 1934, and together formed four successive companies with the dancers trained there: the American Ballet (...

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Irene Alm

[Giambattista; ‘il Tasquino’]

( fl 1636–57). Italian choreographer, dancer, stage designer and impresario . He was involved with Venetian opera from its inception. Cited as ‘Veneziano Ballarino celebre’ in the libretto for Francesco Manelli’s L’Andromeda (1637), he continued to provide choreography for operas at Venice for the next seven years. Beginning in 1645, his affiliation with the travelling Febiarmonici introduced Venetian opera to other Italian cities. They produced Francesco Sacrati’s La finta pazza in Florence in 1645 and Cavalli’s La Deidamia (first performed Venice, 1644) there in 1650. In December 1652 Balbi and the Febiarmonici produced Veremonda l’Amazzone d’Aragona (?Cavalli) in Naples. Veremonda and La finta pazza, presented earlier that year, served to introduce Neapolitan audiences to the innovations of the Venetian stage machinery and dance. During Carnival 1653 Balbi created the set designs and choreography for the anonymous Le magie amorose and for Provenzale’s Il Ciro in Naples.

Balbi also played an important role in the introduction of Venetian opera to northern Europe. While in Florence in ...

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Claude Conyers

(b Cedar Grove, LA, Dec 22, 1918; d New York, April 29, 1995). American dancer, choreographer, teacher, and company director. Having begun formal dance training with Katherine Dunham in Chicago, he made his first appearance on stage in Ruth Page’s 1934 production of La Guiablesse (The Devil Woman, 1933), with Dunham in the title role. He later performed as a soloist in Dunham’s company and continued his training with Martha Graham and with various ballet teachers in New York City. Recognized as a charismatic dancer in several companies, he formed his own troupe in 1947 and toured widely with a revue entitled Tropicana (1950–55). For this show he made his first significant work, Southern Landscape (1949; music, traditional spirituals), which launched his reputation as a brilliant choreographer. In later years he choreographed more than fifty ballets, some of which, centering on social issues and experiences of African Americans, became classics of the modern dance repertory. Among them are ...

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Maureen Needham

(b Paris, Oct 30, 1631; d Paris, early Feb 1705). French dancer, choreographer, composer and conductor. He has been wrongly identified with Charles-Louis Beauchamps. Called the father of all ballet-masters, he codified the five positions of feet and arms, and developed a rational system of dance notation which is now called after Raoul-Auger Feuillet, who published it (in his Chorégraphie, ou L’art de décrire la dance) in 1700.

Beauchamps was Louis XIV’s personal dancing-master and favourite partner in ballets de cour in the 1650s and 60s. Throughout his career he collaborated with Lully, whom he first met as comic dancer in, and later as composer of, ballets de cour. Beauchamps choreographed intermèdes and dances for Molière’s comédies-ballets, beginning with Les fâcheux (1661), for which he also composed the music and conducted the orchestra. He choreographed entrées for Le mariage forcé (1664), Le bourgeois gentilhomme...

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Claude Conyers

(b Buffalo, NY, April 8, 1943; d Tucson, AZ, July 2, 1987).

American dancer, choreographer, and musical theater director. He first appeared on stage at age two, in a dance recital in his hometown. As a youngster, he studied ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance, appeared in summer stock, and had his first directorial experience with high school musicals. He dropped out of school in 1960 to dance the role of Baby John in a European touring production of West Side Story, with choreography by Jerome Robbins. After a year abroad, he went to New York and found work as a chorus boy in shows choreographed by Ron Field, Michael Kidd, and Peter Gennaro. All these innovative choreographers influenced Bennett’s subsequent choreographic work, which included numerous television shows and summer stock productions.

On Broadway, Bennett’s first solo assignments as choreographer were for A Joyful Noise (1966; music by Oscar Brand and Paul Nassau) and ...

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(b ?Paris, ?1676; d Paris, Aug 6, 1739). French dancer, choreographer, and academician. His dancing-master father, Antoine (d 20 July 1740), married Catherine Beauchamps, the sister of dancing-master Pierre Beauchamps, with whom Michel reputedly studied. Michel was also connected to [J.-B. Poquelin] Molière’s family through his wife, Marie-Nicole-Thérèse Dugast (married 7 May 1701). Michel danced at the Paris Opéra from 1690; from 1728 until his death he was a ‘compositeur des ballets’. On occasion, he choreographed or performed in ballets for the French court. Among other works, he choreographed a Ballet de la Paix (1713) for the Jesuit Collège Louis le Grand. His famous pupils included Marie-Anne Cupis de Camargo, Marie Sallé, and, allegedly, Franz Hilverding van Wewen. Noverre claims that Blondi did not teach his students to read dance notation, but as a member of the Académie Royale de Danse, Blondi signed a resolution condemning Pierre Rameau’s ...

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Gabriella Biagi Ravenni

(b Lucca, Feb 5, 1742; d after 1798). Italian librettist, dancer and choreographer. A brother of Luigi Boccherini, he made his début as a dancer in Venice in 1757, but his major successes were achieved in Vienna between 1759 and 1767 (for example, Noverre’s revived Médée et Jason) and from 1769 to 1771. He used this success to begin a career as a librettist; he was a member of the Accademia dell’Arcadia (with the name of Argindo Bolimeo) and published a collection of sonnets. His libretto Turno, re dei Rutoli, a dramma tragico (Vienna, 1767), was never set to music, but reveals a progressive approach to drama; its commendation by Calzabigi, appended to the libretto, led to contact with Salieri, who set to music most of Boccherini’s subsequent librettos. These reveal a talent for pantomime and choreography, and handle theatrical conventions with ease. From 1772 to 1775...

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Article

Elizabeth Aldrich

revised by Sally Banes

(b Aberdeen, WA, Nov 25, 1936). American choreographer and dancer. She graduated from Mills College and also studied with Anna Halprin and Robert Dunn as well as at the American Dance Festival in Connecticut. She has taught at Mills College, Reed College, New York University, and other institutions. Brown was a founding member of the Judson Dance Theater and the Grand Union, and in 1970 she formed the Trisha Brown Company. Termed a “postmodern” choreographer, Brown has often rejected music entirely or given it a subordinate role in her dances. During the early 1960s she performed improvised and “task” dances, which she later varied in a series of “equipment pieces” requiring what she called “external support systems,” such as ropes, pulleys, and mountain-climbing gear. The “accumulation” and “structured” pieces of the early 1970s involved the systematic ordering of movement. In 1979 Brown began to create several large-scale dance works in collaboration with such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, and Fukijo Nakaya, and with the composers Robert Ashley and Laurie Anderson; in these works she included music as a dominant element for the first time. Brown’s major choreographic works in the 1980s and 1990s were highlighted by collaborations with composers Anderson, Peter Zummo, and Richard Landry, as well as visual artists Rauschenberg, Judd, and Nancy Graves. During the 1990s she also began to work with existing musical scores, setting dances to the music of Bach, Webern, Cage, and Rameau. In ...

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Claude V. Palisca

(b Rome, c1550; d Rome, March 11, 1602). Italian composer, organist, singing teacher, dancer, choreographer, administrator and diplomat. He was the composer of the first surviving play set entirely to music, the Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo (Rome, 1600), the score of which is the earliest one printed with a figured bass.

Cavalieri was the son of Lavinia della Valle and Tommaso Cavalieri (1512–87), an architect and intimate friend of Michelangelo Buonarotti. His brother, Mario (d 1580), coordinated the Lenten music in the Oratorio del SS Crocifisso in S Marcello, Rome, between 1568 and 1579. He himself also participated in this Oratorio both as an organist and as a coordinator of Lenten music from 1578 until at least 1584 (the account books are missing for 1584–94); during his administration the yearly expenditure on music rose from 51 to 140 scudi....

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Claude Conyers

(b Geneva, IL, June 22, 1921; d New York, Aug 25, 1980). American dancer, singer, choreographer, and musical theater director. When he was twelve years old, he began studying dance with Ernest Belcher in Los Angeles, training in ballet, acrobatics, tap, and Spanish dance. At fifteen he formed a ballroom dance act with Jeanne Tyler, a fellow student at Hollywood High School, and made his professional début. After several years of touring (1935–42) and a stint in the Coast Guard during World War II, Champion formed a new partnership with Belcher’s daughter Marjorie in 1946. The new partners would later marry and win fame as one of the most popular dancing couples of the late 1940s and 1950s.

Marge and Gower Champion played supper clubs and hotel ballrooms before moving on to Broadway musicals and television variety shows. By the early 1950s they had established a national reputation as a popular song and dance act, and Gower had gained considerable experience as a choreographer. Their successes on stage and television led them, inevitably, back to Hollywood. After appearing as “guest artists” in ...

Article

Sally Banes

revised by Elizabeth Aldrich

(b New York, NY, June 26, 1940). American choreographer and dancer. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and also studied with Hanya Holm, Helen Tamiris, Merce Cunningham, James Waring, and Robert Dunn. In 1973 she founded her own company, Lucinda Childs Dance. For the most part her works are danced in silence. Pieces from the 1960s such as Street Dance (1964) incorporate ordinary activities as dance movements; those of the 1970s and 1980s consist chiefly of stepping patterns (Calico Mingling, 1973; Melody Excerpt, 1977). Childs is perhaps best known for her role as dancer, actress, and speaker in the avant-garde opera Einstein on the Beach (1976) by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson; originally she choreographed only her own solo dance, but for the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1984 she served as choreographer of the entire work. Her participation in Einstein led to a further collaboration with Glass, ...