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Ivor Guest

(b Marseilles, Dec 22, 1815; d Versailles, July 7, 1898). French choreographer, brother of Marius Petipa. He was one of the finest male dancers of his time, renowned for the nobility of his style. He made his début at the Paris Opéra in 1839, and in 1841 created his most celebrated role, Albrecht in Giselle. As well as independent works, he created the ballets for a number of operas. Specially important was his collaboration with Verdi in the Opéra’s offerings for the first and second Universal Exhibitions in Paris. For Les vêpres siciliennes (1855) he arranged a long ballet, ‘Les Quatre Saisons’, skilfully integrated into the action. Don Carlos (1867) contained an important ballet, ‘La Pérégrina’, with a theme of its own. Less successful was Petipa’s Venusberg Scene for the Paris production of Tannhäuser in 1860; the uproar the opera caused was one of the great scandals of operatic history, but the opposition was less a matter of musical taste than a chauvinistic outcry against a German composer and an objection to the placement of the obligatory ballet too early in the opera. Petipa also arranged a charming ballet for Thomas’ ...

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Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

(John )

( b Skipton, Yorks., May 24, 1945). English flautist and choreographer of historical dance. He studied at the GSM from 1963 to 1966 with John Francis and Geoffrey Gilbert, and later with Wieland Kuijken in Amsterdam. His technical skill and interpretative insight into period flute playing led to principal positions in the Academy of Ancient Music, English Baroque Soloists and London Classical Players in their pioneering years. Preston was also a founder member of the English Concert, and has made acclaimed recordings of works including Bach's flute sonatas and concertos by Vivaldi. Alongside his active playing and teaching career he is artistic director of the MZT dance company and has choreographed operas by composers ranging from Purcell to Gluck....

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Jennifer Thorp

[Josiah ]

( bc 1645; bur. Chelsea, Jan 3, 1735). English dancing-master and choreographer . He may have been the ‘Mr Priest’ who danced an entrée with Mary Davis in Sir Martin Mar-All at the Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre in 1667 (Downes) and probably the Josiah Preist (the form of the surname often preferred in early sources) who was arrested with four others in 1669 for ‘teaching, practising and exercising musick’ without a licence. The Joseph Preist who, with Luke Chanell, made the dances for Davenant's Macbeth at Dorset Garden Theatre in 1673 and was involved in John Crowne and Nicholas Staggins's masque Calisto at Whitehall in 1675 may not be the same person. Established by 1668 as a dancing-master in Holborn, Josias Priest moved to Leicester Fields in about 1675 to run a boarding-school for gentlewomen. In November 1680 he and his wife took charge of a similar school at Gorge's House, Chelsea, where he hosted performances of Blow's ...

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Elizabeth Aldrich

(b Vienna, Austria, 1891; d Woodland Hills, CA, Oct 3, 1967). American dancer and choreographer of Austrian birth. After early studies at Vienna’s Imperial Ballet School, Rasch immigrated to the United States in 1910 at the invitation of Robert H. Burnside, stage director of New York City’s Hippodrome Theatre, and within a month she was dancing a leading role there. From 1911 to 1913 she performed at many of New York City’s theaters, including the Schubert Winter Garden. In 1913 she returned to her ballet roots and became première danseuse for the Century Opera House. After a tour with Sarah Bernhardt (1916–17), Rasch continued her career as a concert dance performer. She opened the Albertina Rasch Dance Studio in New York City in 1923 and later opened a second school in Los Angeles, training dancers to perform in the several traveling companies known as the Albertina Rasch Girls or Albertina Rasch Dancers. By the mid-1920s, approximately 150 dancers were employed as Rasch dancers on vaudeville stages across the country....

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(Wilson)

(b New York, Oct 18, 1918; d New York, July 29, 1998). American dancer, choreographer, ballet company director, theater director, and producer. He was a creative artist of seemingly inexhaustible resources, moving with ease between the worlds of ballet and Broadway. After studying ballet, modern, Spanish, and Oriental dance, he made his début as a dancer in 1937. Most of his early professional experience was as a dancer in Broadway musicals. In 1940 he joined Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre), for which he created his first ballet, Fancy Free (1944), to music by Leonard Bernstein. Fancy Free was later expanded into On the Town (1945), the first of his many musicals. His association with Bernstein was equally productive in the fields of ballet and musical theater. West Side Story is probably their best-known and most enduring collaboration; Robbins directed and choreographed both the stage and film versions (...

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J.G. Prod’homme and Marian Smith

(b Paris, Sept 17, 1821; d Paris, Sept 2, 1870). French violinist, dancer, choreographer and composer. His real surname was Michel. He studied ballet with his father, a ballet-master at the royal theatre in Stuttgart, and studied the violin with Paganini and Mayseder. He made his début as a violinist in Stuttgart in 1834 and as a dancer in Munich in 1835, when he adopted the name Saint-Léon. In 1837–8 he studied ballet with François Decombe (known as Albert) at the Paris Opéra. From 1838 he toured Europe as a dancer and in 1843 he created the ballet La vivandiera ed il postiglione (music by Rolland) in Rome. He married the ballerina Fanny Cerrito (1817–1909) in 1845; they danced together frequently until their separation in 1851. Meanwhile he became famous as a choreographer. In the early 1850s he was premier maître de ballet at the Opéra. He appeared as choreographer, dancer and violinist in ...

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Sarah McCleave

[‘La Vestale’]

(b 1709 d Paris, July 27, 1756). French dancer and choreographer. New evidence (Rubellin) corrects her date of birth. Her father Etienne Sallé married into the Moylin dynasty of fairground players (to Marie-Alberte Moylin, 11 April 1699), so her early training presumably took place in the inventive atmosphere of the foires. (The restrictions imposed on the forains cultivated their skills as mimes.) She is said to have studied formally with Françoise Prévost, Jean Balon, and also Michel Blondi of the Paris Opéra. Her first known public appearance, on 18 October 1716, was at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, London, with her brother Francis (1705–32). During this season her diverse repertory included Kellom Tomlinson’s notated dance The Submission and comic dances such as ‘The Dutch Skipper’, as well as ‘A Scene in the French Andromach Burlesqued’. On 5 June 1717 Marie and Francis contributed entr’acte dances to Handel’s ...

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[Francesco ]

(d Lisbon, Jan 18, 1775). French choreographer and dancer . His name first appears as ‘Mons. Soutter’, ballet-master for the 1738–9 opera season at the S Giovanni Grisostomo, Venice: his first opera was Rinaldo di Capua’s Farnace. Except for a three-year period in Stuttgart (1758–61), where he immediately preceded Noverre and choreographed three Jommelli operas, Sauveterre worked in Italy until 1766, creating ballets for operas in Padua (1740), Turin (1740–41, 1749–50), Florence (1743–4, 1746–7), Milan (1746, 1748, 1752–3, 1755–6, 1763, 1765), Reggio Emilia (1741, 1750–51, 1753, 1755), Naples (1742, Leo’s Andromaca), Rome (1749), Bologna (1756) and Venice (1749, 1740–51, 1763–6). Sacchini, Paisiello and Guglielmi are among the composers with whom he worked. In 1766 Sauveterre accompanied his student, Pietro Colonna, to Lisbon, and was recommended as dancing-master to the prince and choreographer for the court theatres, replacing Andrea Alberti, ‘Il Tedeschino’; there he choreographed many operas by Jommelli, as well as works by Perez, Piccinni and others. A contemporary writer in Florence described his ballets as superb. He emphasized dramatic and mimetic content in the style of ...

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Stephen Slawek

(b Udaipur, Dec 8, 1900; d Calcutta, Sept 26, 1977). Indian dancer and choreographer. He was the eldest son of Pandit Shyam Shankar Choudhury and the elder brother of the sitār player and composer Ravi Shankar. He showed a strong interest in the performing and expressive arts during his childhood, performing his own interpretations of the traditional dances of Rajasthan and staging magic shows for his family and friends. In 1918 he began to study art at the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay. At the request of his father, who had moved to London in the services of the Maharaja of Jhalawar, Shankar enrolled in the Royal College of Art in London in 1920. Sir William Rothenstein, the Principal of that institution, took an interest in Shankar, advising him to study the Indian paintings housed in the British Museum. Shankar’s earlier attraction to dance was nurtured by his growing understanding of the movements he found represented in the artworks which he studied. Soon after graduating in ...

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Norton Owen

[Edwin Myers ]

(b Kansas City, MO, Oct 21, 1891; d Orlando, FL, Jan 9, 1972). American dancer, choreographer, teacher, writer and impresario. He is regarded as the father of modern dance in America. While studying to become a minister at age 19, Shawn was paralyzed by a bout of diphtheria, and dance was prescribed as physical therapy. He first trained in ballet and achieved some success presenting exhibition ballroom dances, but his artistic life truly began in 1914 when he first performed with Ruth St. Denis, whom he married that same year. During the next fifteen years, the activities of their Denishawn Company and School made history and spawned a new generation of modern dancers. Shawn was instrumental in shaping the early careers of Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, Doris Humphrey and Jack Cole.

Shawn and St. Denis separated in 1930 and dissolved Denishawn. With the subsequent purchase of a rundown Massachusetts farm known as Jacob’s Pillow, Shawn laid the groundwork both for his revolutionary company of men dancers and for America’s oldest dance festival. Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers toured from ...

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Barbara Palfy

(b Hartford, CT, Feb 9, 1910; d New York, March 29, 2000). American dancer, choreographer, and teacher. Born into a family of Russian-Jewish immigrants, she followed an older sister to dance classes at New York’s Emanuel Sisterhood Settlement House and ultimately to the Henry Street Playhouse in their Lower East Side neighborhood. There she was taught by Blanche Talmud and met Louis Horst and Martha Graham, with whose company she danced (1930–38), also assisting Horst’s choreography classes at Henry Street’s Neighborhood Playhouse. Fundamentally a modern dancer, she did study for a year at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School.

So enamored of dance and so talented was Anna that she left formal education in her mid-teens to pursue dance and independently earn a living at it when her father’s incapacitation and early death left the family struggling. Her mother, a strong and socially engaged woman, exposed her daughters to the social consciousness movements of the day, an awareness that infiltrated most of Sokolow’s work. She also came to know and collaborate with young experimental composers like Alex North and Teo Macero, and was equally drawn to the music of serious concert composers like Berg and Scriabin....

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Maureen Needham

(b Milan, Nov 5, 1777; d Como, Feb 11, 1871). Italian dancer and choreographer. In 1794 he became first dancer at the Teatro dei Nobili, Pisa, where his father Carlo was ballet-master. After touring Italy, 1796–8, he went to Paris to study with J.-F. Coulon, making his début at the Opéra in La caravane (1799). He worked at the Royal Opera, Stockholm, in 1803–4, and at the Hoftheater, Vienna, in 1805, before undertaking an extended European tour. Taglioni’s importance lies mainly in his choreography for the premières, all at the Paris Opéra, of Auber’s Le dieu et la bayadère (1830) and Gustave III (1833), Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable (1831) and Les Huguenots (1836), and Halévy’s La Juive (1835). That for Robert, including the famous ‘Scène des nonnes’ in which 50 dancers dressed in white wafted through the ghostly cloister, made theatrical history: the first ...

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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 Chicago, Dec 14, 1917; d Miami, May 16, 2004). American choreographer. Forced by illness to quit her job as a nightclub dancer, she founded her own troupe, the June Taylor Dancers, in 1942. In a Baltimore nightclub in 1946 she met Jackie Gleason, who would play a central role in her later career. Her troupe made its television début in 1948, on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town, where six of her original dancers, billed as The Toastettes, were the first chorus line on television. Two years later her troupe joined Gleason’s Cavalcade of Stars and then moved on to The Jackie Gleason Show, for which she created dance routines featuring bright smiles, lively tunes, tapping feet, high kicks, and geometric patterns viewed in kaleidoscopic sequences by overhead cameras. She worked on the show for many years (1952–9, 1962–70), winning an Emmy award for her choreography in ...

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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 ...

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[Jean Antoine ]

( fl 1755–92). French choreographer and dancer . His activities were concentrated in Venice, where he produced ballets for more than three dozen operas between 1755 and 1792. Much of his work was for the Teatro S Moisè during the 1770s and 80s, in operas by Traetta, Guglielmi, Bertoni, Astarita and Anfossi, among others, but he also created ballets for the S Samuele (1755–6, 1760, 1780–81), S Benedetto (1760, 1768–9), S Cassiano (1765, 1791–2), and S Salvatore (1767) theatres. In addition he worked as a dancer and choreographer in a number of other Italian cities, including Pistoia (1755, 1767), Rome (1757, 1761, 1778), Parma (1761), Reggio Emilia (1763), Milan (1766) and Turin (1778–9). About 1760 he married the ballerina Anna Conti-Nadi de Sales (detta la Russiene), and apparently adopted her son Federico Nadi. Federico worked at opera houses in Italy from the mid-1760s to the early 90s, often in productions with his parents; in ...

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Sally Banes

revised by Elizabeth Aldrich

(b Portland, IN, July 1, 1941). American choreographer. She was educated at Barnard College (BA in art history) and studied ballet with Richard Thomas and Barbara Fallis, jazz dance with Luigi, and modern dance with Carolyn Brown and Paul Taylor as well as in classes at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. In 1965 she founded her own company (Twyla Tharp and Dancers), and that same year she presented her first work (Tank Dive). Her dances of the 1960s, rigorous manipulations of structure expressed as pure movement, were not set to music, though Tharp did use choreographic equivalents of such musical devices as counterpoint and canon, a technique that culminated in The Fugue (1970). Tharp had her first popular success with Eight Jelly Rolls (1971), the first of a series of jazz works and Tharp’s first dance to use musical accompaniment. Subsequent works have been set to music ranging from Haydn (...