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Barbara Palfy

(b New York, NY, April 23, 1903; d New York, NY, Aug 4, 1966). American dancer, choreographer, teacher, theater director, and organizer. The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants living frugally on the Lower East Side, she so often danced on the streets that the family enrolled her in the famous children’s dance classes given by Irene Lewisohn and Blanche Talmud at the Henry Street Settlement House. Smitten with dance and showing talent, she did complete high school but when still a teenager auditioned for and was accepted into the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, where she was trained in classical technique and appeared for four seasons.

Not only a fine dancer but a beauty, she was taken into the Bracale Opera Company for its 1920 South American tour, during which an admirer called her Tamiris, exotic and ruthless Persian queen of poetry, the name she adopted professionally. More ballet training followed, in Russian technique with Michel Fokine in New York, until she saw a concert by Isadora Duncan and was moved to study “natural” dancing....

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Claude Conyers

(b Edgewood, PA, July 29, 1930). American modern dancer, choreographer, and company director. He had his first dance training, did his first dance performance, and choreographed his first dance, Hobo Ballet, at Syracuse University, where he was an art student with a partial scholarship as a swimmer. Upon graduation, he moved to New York City in 1952 and continued his training in modern dance and ballet with prominent teachers. By 1954 he had assembled a small company of dancers and was making his own works, beginning with Jack and the Beanstalk (1954; music by Hy Gubernick). Tall, handsome, athletic, and a dynamic performer, he joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955 for the first of seven seasons as soloist while continuing to choreograph and dance with his own troupe. After creating the slyly funny Three Epitaphs (1956; music by the Laneville-Johnson Union Brass Band) and experimental works such as the infamous ...

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

(Rinaldo Giuseppe Maria)

(b Milan, Sept 6, 1739; d ?Venice, 1811). Italian choreographer, dancer and impresario. From the 1750s he danced mostly in Rome, Vienna, Venice and Naples, becoming active as a choreographer from at least 1773 and as an impresario from at least 1783. Viganò was famous in his youth as a dancer in the comic (grottesco) style. Burney, who saw him in Naples in 1770, wrote that he ‘has great force and neatness, and seems to equal Slingsby in his à plomb, or neatness of keeping time’. Later he seems to have appeared only in serious parts, dancing regularly until 1792 and once thereafter, in 1797. He was one of the best-known choreographers in Italy, often working in collaboration with the composer Marescalchi, but he never approached the celebrity achieved by his son Salvatore. His career as an impresario, notably at the Teatro Argentina in Rome (...

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 ...