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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 ...

Article

(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, ...