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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(b Vienna, Jan 17, 1775; d Addleston, Surrey, Sept 3, 1838). English actress, singer, and dancer . Her father, an orchestral flute player, brought his family to London and she danced on stage as a child, gradually taking juvenile acting and singing parts. From 1790 she built up a repertory of roles in musical pieces, an early success being Macheath in a travesty Beggar’s opera. Hard-working, intelligent and lively, she had parts in many operas by Storace and Kelly. C. H. Wilson wrote, ‘she sings so well, acts so well, dances so well, and looks so well, that she is deservedly a great favourite of the town’. After marrying Charles Kemble in 1806 she generally acted with him but made few appearances after 1813.

BDA DNB (J. Knight) LS ‘Miss De Camp’, Thespian Magazine, 3 (1794),79–80 C. H. Wilson: The Myrtle and Vine (London, 1802) R. Fiske...

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Susan Au

(George)

(b New York, Sept 18, 1905; d New York, Oct 7, 1993). American dancer, choreographer, dance company director, and writer. Born into a family of theater professionals (her uncle was film director Cecil B. De Mille), she earned a BA in English from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her ballet training began in Los Angeles and continued in England, where she danced in the companies of Marie Rambert and Antony Tudor. She toured the United States and Europe as a solo performer, and in 1939 became a charter member of Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre). Her best-known ballet, Rodeo (1942; Aaron Copland), was choreographed for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The story of a cowgirl who learns the uses of femininity, it is still performed today. Her choreography for the musical Oklahoma! (1943; Rodgers and Hammerstein) brought her even wider fame, and its use of dance as a means of advancing the plot was hailed as a milestone in theater history. ...

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Neal Zaslaw

(b Lyons, c1720; d ?Paris, after 1764). French dancer and composer. He first appeared on the stage at the Académie Royale de Musique in Lyons in 1739, dancing in Montéclair’s Jephté and Destouches’ Omphale. He may have been the Denis who worked in Paris at the Foire St Laurent and in the Grand Troupe Etrangère, between about 1738 and about 1742. In 1749 Denis arrived in Berlin with his wife, the ballerina Giovanna Cortini, called ‘La Pantaloncina’, and was shortly appointed maître de ballet to the Prussian court. He provided choreography and music for the ballets in about 50 stage works in which he and his wife danced, including Graun’s operas Coriolano (1749), Fetonte (1750), Armida (1751), Britannico (1751), Mithridate (1751), Orfeo (1752), Semiramide (1754), Ezio (1755), Montezuma (1755) and ...

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(b mid-18th century; d Paris, 1815). French composer, dancer and teacher. He first acquired fame as a dancer. He danced at least once at the Comédie-Française in 1762 and was ballet-master there by 1764; he was an adjoint at the Opéra in 1774. In 1777 he made his début as a composer at the Concert Spirituel, and during the following ten years his compositions were performed there 25 times – the fourth-largest number of presentations of works by a native composer in that period. He was dismayed by the foreign domination of French musical life and, in response to an unfavourable review of his oratorio Les Macchabées (1780), wrote ‘It is unfortunate for a French musician to have been born in his own country’. He was master of dance at the Ecole Royale de Chant from its establishment in 1784 and made his début as an opera composer the following year with ...

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Rainer E. Lotz

(Winston )

(b Philadelphia, May 14, 1889; d New York, May 19, 1939). American dancer, choreographer, and impresario. He went to Ireland in 1903 as a member of a juvenile “piccaninny” group, then toured Europe with Belle Davis (1903–8); his dancing during this period may be seen in the film Die schöne Davis mit ihren drei Negern (1906). Thereafter he worked as an eccentric solo act, and from 1910 into the 1930s was featured as a step dancer in revues in London, Paris, and Berlin; he also toured South America in 1923. In 1925 he starred in La revue nègre, with music provided by Claude Hopkins’s Charleston Jazz Band. He then organized his own revue, Black People (1926), which toured Europe and North Africa with members of Sam Wooding’s band. He organized further revues in Berlin (1926) and New York (1927...

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Claude Conyers

(b Florence, Italy, Oct 25, 1909; d Woodstock, NY, Sept 20, 1996). American tap dancer and teacher of Italian birth. Born abroad but reared in America, he grew up in a home filled with classical music. While working as an instructor in ballroom dancing at an Arthur Murray studio, he learned a bit about tap dancing, and he decided to make dance his career. Most tap dancers at the time favored a heavy, percussive sound; Draper developed his own style, employing the lightest of taps. To broaden his range of movement, he began to study ballet in the early 1930s while continuing to perform in New York supper clubs. In 1941 he teamed up with Larry Adler, the harmonica virtuoso, and they became a world-famous duo, performing together until 1949. In the first half of their act, Adler would play pieces by Bach, Mozart, and Debussy; Draper would dance to the music of Handel, Vivaldi, and Scarlatti; the second half was devoted to jazz, Broadway show tunes, and American folk songs. Draper also appeared in two movies: ...

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Susan Au

[Dora Angela ]

(b San Francisco, CA, May 27, 1877; d Nice, France, Sept 14, 1927). American dancer. She studied classical ballet as a child but rejected it as artificial, and developed her own style of dancing based on the principles of natural movement. Early in her career she danced for the theatrical manager Augustin Daly in the United States and with Loïe Fuller’s company in Europe, but subsequently performed mainly as a solo recitalist. After an early performance (New York, 1898) to the music of American composer Ethelbert Nevin, she turned to the compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, and Fryderyk Chopin, among others, demonstrating through example that theatrical dance did not have to confine itself to specially composed scores, as had been the prevailing practice in 19th-century ballet. Her insistence on dancing to concert music paralleled her belief that dance was an art capable of expressing the highest aspirations of the soul. She admired the integration of dance in ancient Greek ritual and theater, and took inspiration from Greek sculpture. The simplicity of her costumes, which were based on Greek tunics, was matched by the unadorned curtains she used as her stage setting. She wished to reinstate in dance the sense of naturalness she perceived in the ancient Greeks and showed that simple movements such as walking, running, and skipping could be used as expressive components of the dancer’s movement vocabulary. Although her work is generally regarded as a precursor of modern dance, Duncan also influenced ballet choreographers such as Michel Fokine, particularly in introducing a freer, more fluid use of the torso, untrammeled by the corset that was then a part of the ballerina’s uniform. Her simplicity and naturalness seemed radical to audiences accustomed to the visual and choreographic extravagances of the ballet. She later displayed a political radicalism as well, demonstrating her support for the ideals of the Russian Revolution of ...

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Claude Conyers

(Mary)

(b Chicago, IL, June 22, 1912; d New York, May 21, 2006). American dancer, choreographer, author, teacher, and company director. Having studied ballet and modern dance with Chicago teachers and founded her own performing group, she became interested in ethnic dance while studying anthropology at the University of Chicago. Upon winning a research grant, she went on a field trip to the West Indies, where she documented dances of various locales. She submitted a thesis on the dances of Haiti in partial fulfillment of a master’s degree at the university but was then faced with a choice between academia and show business. She chose the latter. Tropics (1937), Primitive Rhythms (1938), and Le Jazz “Hot” (1939) were early versions of the many revues she would create with the music, song, and dance of Afro-Caribbean and African American people. She and her company came to national attention when they appeared in the Broadway musical ...

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Kate Van Winkle Keller

(b Paris, France, c1762; d Washington, DC, April 11, 1841). American dancing master, choreographer, and composer of dance music. He was born into a family named Landrin with close connections to the court of Louis XVI. He was a pupil of Maximilien Gardel (1741–87), and for six years he was dancing master for the Paris Opéra. He left Paris three days after the fall of the Bastille in 1789 and arrived in Philadelphia in mid-1790. He changed his name, placing advertisements for his dancing schools as Mr. De Duport. Chiefly a choreographer and teacher of social dancing, Duport blended amateur and professional dancing with theatrical standards of content and performance. He wrote music and created hornpipes and other solo dances for his students, as well as duos such as figured minuets, allemandes, and waltzes; group dances, including complex French contredanses, cotillions, and English country dances; and ballets for his classes to perform at recitals. A music copybook in Duport’s hand traces his creative career from ...

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Claude Conyers

(b York, PA, Jan 6, 1768; d Philadelphia, 1822). American dancer. He was the first native-born American to become known as a performing dancer. Interested in theater and dance as a boy, he was, according to his memoirs, “charmed” by the liveliness of the hornpipe. As early as 1780, at age twelve, he learned “the correct style of dancing a hornpipe” from a visiting French dancer and made it his specialty. At fifteen he left home, went to Boston, and in 1785 joined Lewis Hallam’s theatrical company, dancing the hornpipe between acts. During Durang’s first season, a musician named Hoffmaster composed a tune for him that became famous as “Durang’s Hornpipe,” and a few years later his staged version of the traditional “Sailor’s Hornpipe” in The Wapping Landlady (1790) solidified his reputation as an unparalleled performer of the dance.

From his collaborations with visiting European artists, Durang acquired skills in acrobatics, tightrope walking, classical ballet, clowning, pantomime, choreography, and theater management. In ...

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James R. Anthony

(b 1718; d Paris, after 1775). French composer, dancer, ?singer and harpsichordist. In his contemporary manuscript, Notices sur les oeuvres de théâtre, the Marquis d'Argenson commented that Duval, ‘une jeune fille de l'Opéra’, was 18 in 1736 when she composed Les Génies, ou Les caractères de l'Amour. Fétis gave 1769 as her death date; Choron identified her as a ‘singer at the Paris Opéra’ and claimed that she was ‘still living in 1770’; the Anecdotes dramatiques for 1775 referred to her as a ‘former actress at the Opéra’ and included a ‘Mlle Duval’ as a supernumerary among the dancers.

Duval was best known as the composer of Les Génies, ou Les caractères de l'Amour (libretto by Fleury [de Lyon]), a ballet-héröique in a prologue and four entrées (printed in Paris about 1736). The dedication page reveals that the Prince of Carignan was her ‘Protecteur’. Les Génies...

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John Koegel

[Ronstadt Kassler, Louise ]

(b Tucson, AZ, Dec 8, 1892; d Los Angeles, CA, Feb 2, 1962). American Singer, dancer, and actress. Of Mexican American descent, she was the daughter of the prominent Tucson musician and businessman Fred Ronstadt (Federico José María Ronstadt y Redondo; 1868–1954). From the 1910s through the 1940s, she appeared as a singer and dancer using the stage name Espinel, first in concerts in such southern Arizona border towns as Nogales, then on tour in vaudeville in east coast cities. In the 1920s she studied Spanish dance, medieval music, and folksong in Spain, which she later incorporated into her recitals. In the 1930s she appeared with the Mexican Players at the Padua Hills Theater in Claremont, California, and performed for society events throughout the United States. In 1935 she appeared as a gypsy dancer in Josef von Sternberg’s film The Devil Is a Woman. In 1946 the University of Arizona published her collection of 16 Mexican folksongs, ...

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Lynn Matluck Brooks

( fl c 1637–1642). Spanish dancer . His Discursos sobre el arte del dançado (Seville, 1642) reveals that he was a citizen and native of Seville who went to Madrid to study with Antonio de Almenda, dancing master to Felipe IV. In about 1637 he returned to Seville, where he appears to have been regarded nearly as a newcomer, based on his own reports of his arrival and reactions to his dancing and the ‘doctrine’ it demonstrated. By the time he was writing his treatise he was no youngster; he regularly referred to and praised the younger generation of dancers. His treatise, in which he claimed to be expounding the doctrine of his teacher, includes a rumination on the history and values of dancing, descriptions of 27 dance steps as well as explanations of posture and stance, indications of ideals in body types and performance aesthetics, and lists of expert dancers, esteemed dancing masters and their most accomplished disciples, primarily in Madrid and Seville. There are no dance notations or musical examples, but there are brief choreographic descriptions for the pavan and galliard, and a lengthier description for the ...

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Susan Au

(b Brooklyn, NY, July 5, 1942). American dancer, choreographer, and ballet company director. He studied dance in New York at the School of American Ballet and the High School of Performing Arts. In 1954 he made his stage début at the age of 11 as the child prince in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, with New York City Ballet. He appeared in both the Broadway and film versions of the musical West Side Story (1958, 1961), playing the role of Baby-John in the latter. His early performing experience included modern dance, musicals, and television as well as ballet. He danced with American Ballet Theatre (1963–8, 1971–2), where he created his first ballet, Harbinger (1967; Prokofiev), followed shortly by At Midnight (1967; Mahler); both were highly praised. For his first ensemble, the American Ballet Company (1969–71), he choreographed Intermezzo No. 1 (...

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Earle Hitchner

(b Chicago, IL, July 16, 1958). American Irish stepdancer, choreographer, flutist, and producer. At age 11 Flatley began stepdancing lessons at Chicago’s Dennehy School of Irish Dance. In 1975, at age 17, he became the first US competitor to win the All-World championship for Irish stepdancing. Flatley is also a three-time All-Ireland junior flute champion. He released the solo album …And Then Came Flatley (self-issued, 1981; reissued as CD entitled Michael Flatley on Son Records, 1995) and the double-CD On a Different Note (Unicorn Entertainments Inc., 2011). In 1988 he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of his impact on Irish dance in the United States. Flatley’s biggest break and breakthrough, however, came on 30 April 1994, during the Eurovision Song Contest held in Dublin’s Point Theatre. There he and his dance partner, Jean Butler, electrified the seated audience and millions more watching on television with a seven-minute performance called ...

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Claude Conyers

[Robert Louis]

(b Chicago, IL, June 23, 1927; d Washington, DC, Sept 23, 1987).

American stage, film, and television dancer, choreographer, and director. Son of a former vaudevillian, he began studying ballet, tap, and jazz dance at age nine and within a few years was appearing in local nightclubs and theaters. In 1944, at age 17, he enlisted in the US Navy and performed in its special services entertainment division. After the war, he went to New York and found work in the chorus of Call Me Mister (1948), where he met his first wife, Mary Ann Niles, with whom he formed a dance act. Their appearances in major hotels led to their being hired to appear on television variety shows and in the Broadway revue Dance Me a Song (1950), where he fell in love with Joan McCracken, one of the co-stars of the show. After divorce and remarriage, he enrolled at the American Theater Wing to continue his studies in theater arts. In ...