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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. ...

Article

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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Article

(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 ...

Article

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: ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...