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Howard Rye

[Charles; the Man with the Moves]

(b Birmingham, AL, Sept 30, 1913; d Las Vegas, NV, April 19, 2003). American dancer. His parents moved to Buffalo when he was four, and he later began his professional career in the area as a singing waiter. In 1933 he met the dancer Bill (William) Porter, and the two men formed an act, the Rhythm Pals; in 1935 they went to New York, after which they toured widely until 1939, incorporating a residency at Sebastian’s New Cotton Club in Los Angeles in 1938. In 1939 Atkins returned to New York and began dancing with and choreographing for the Cotton Club Boys, appearing with them in the show The Hot Mikado. Soon afterwards he produced a show in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in which he met the singer Dotty (Dorothy) Saulter, with whom he formed a professional and personal partnership, touring with Cab Calloway. In September 1943 Atkins joined the army. On his return to civilian life he formed another partnership, Coles & Atkins, with Honi Coles (for details ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Howard Rye

(b New Orleans, July 31, 1949). American singer and dancer. He majored in theater studies at Xavier University and then studied drama in Europe. On his return to New Orleans he founded the New Experience Theatre and became involved in jazz by conceiving the show One Mo’ Time, which sought to re-create an evening at the city’s Lyric Theater in 1927. The show received its première at the Toulouse Theater, where it eventually ran for six and a half years. In 1979 a One Mo’ Time company opened in New York at the Village Gate Downstairs, where the show ran for 1300 performances. A road company was formed in 1980, and troupes later toured to Britain and Australia. Bagneris himself sang and danced with each of these companies at various times. With choreography by Pepsi Bethel and music by Orange Kellin and the pianist Lars Edegran, the show featured the New Orleans Blue Serenaders, which included Walter Payton on tuba, the drummers John Robichaux and Herlin Riley, and a starring trumpeter, a role played at various times by Jabbo Smith, Bill Dillard, and Franc Williams. Among featured singers were Lillian Boutté, Sandra Reaves Phillips, and Sylvia “Kuumba” Williams. The Village Gate cast with Smith and Williams is heard on the original cast album ...

Article

(b St. Louis, MO, June 3, 1906; d Paris, France, April 12, 1975). American dancer and singer, naturalized French. She started out dancing on the streets of St. Louis with the Jones Family Band, a vaudeville troupe. After touring the South with the Dixie Steppers, she gained attention in the touring company of Shuffle Along (1921), the most important African American show of the decade. A member of the female dancing chorus, Baker stood out by making faces and embellishing dance moves, mixing comedy with the erotic persona of the black chorus girl. After appearing on Broadway in The Chocolate Dandies (1924) as That Comedy Chorus Girl, Baker travelled to Paris with La revue nègre (1925), a nightclub revue that introduced the new black performance styles of Broadway to French audiences. Her pas de deux “Danse Sauvage,” which she performed with her partner Joe Alex, introduced an explicit eroticism and exuberant physicality which marked Baker’s initial renown. Famously appearing at times with little more than a string of bananas around her waist, she made an impact on French popular culture that was immediate and enduring....

Article

[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 (...

Article

Narayana Menon

(b Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, May 13, 1918; d ? Madras, 1984). South Indian dancer and musician. Her family included many distinguished dancers and musicians since the 18th century; during the 19th century some of her forebears studied with Subbaraya Śāstri. Her formal training as a dancer started when she was four under the noted teacher Kandappan Pillai (1899–1942), himself the inheritor of a great tradition, and her mother taught her music. When she was seven her araṇkeṟṟam (formal début) took place at the Kāmākṣi Ammaṉ temple, Kanchipuram, and her professional début was two years later in Madras. As a girl she was already an accomplished and mature dancer with a very large repertory, but she continued to study, notably the basis of abhinaya (dramatic expression) and its improvisation. She became a musician in her own right and a leading exponent of forms such as padam and jāvali...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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...

Article

Margaret M. McGowan

(fl early 17th century). French dancer, violinist and composer. The only known fact in his personal life is that he was married on 27 May 1637 to Antoinette Guibourg, the widow of the painter and costume designer Daniel Rabel. Belleville was in charge of organizing court entertainments for Louis XIII from c1616 to c1637 and contributed to nearly all ballets performed at court during this time. As a dancer he rivalled Louis Constantin and the celebrated dancing-master Jacques Cordier. He wrote all the dance tunes and some of the airs for Etienne Durand's Ballet de la délivrance de Renaud (1617) and for the Ballet de Tancrède (1619). His virtues as a musician were extolled by Michel de Marolles (Mémoires, Amsterdam edn, 1755, iii, pp.207–8), and together with the singer Marais it was said of him by contemporaries that ‘[ils] n'ont besoing que d'estre nommez pour avoir des louanges’. An allemande and a four-part instrumental piece, ...