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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 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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Moira Goff

(b c1690; bur. London, Jan 31, 1754). English dancer, dancing-master and choreographer. He is sometimes confused with his father, the actor John Thurmond (d 1727). He was first billed as dancing at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1710, and in 1718 he became the company's dancing-master. He remained there (except for a short period when he danced at Goodman's Fields) until his retirement from the stage in 1737. He danced regularly throughout his career and is best known for the pantomimes with which he proved himself a worthy rival to John Rich. These began with The Dumb Farce and A Duke and No Duke (both 1719; composers unknown). Thurmond was responsible for the dances in the phenomenally successful pantomime Harlequin Doctor Faustus (1723), which was followed by Harlequin Sheppard (1724), Apollo and Daphne (1725) and The Miser, or Wagner and Abericock...

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Claude Conyers

(James)

(b Wichita Falls, TX, Feb 28, 1939). American actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, and musical theater director. Enrolled in a tap dance class when he was five years old, he showed obvious talent. This led to classes in acrobatics, modern dance, jazz dance, and, finally, ballet, in which he trained for some years with the intention of making it his career. His aspirations diminished, however, as his height increased (he eventually grew to a height of six feet, six and a half inches), and in high school he focused his energies on staging musical comedies. In college, he appeared in numerous student productions as a theater major, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1962. Just before completing requirements for a master’s degree, he decided to abandon academic studies for the professional stage.

Arriving in New York City in 1964, he quickly found work. He made his Broadway début in Baker Street...

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Article

(Rinaldo Giuseppe Maria)

(b Milan, Sept 6, 1739; d ?Venice, 1811). Italian choreographer, dancer and impresario. From the 1750s he danced mostly in Rome, Vienna, Venice and Naples, becoming active as a choreographer from at least 1773 and as an impresario from at least 1783. Viganò was famous in his youth as a dancer in the comic (grottesco) style. Burney, who saw him in Naples in 1770, wrote that he ‘has great force and neatness, and seems to equal Slingsby in his à plomb, or neatness of keeping time’. Later he seems to have appeared only in serious parts, dancing regularly until 1792 and once thereafter, in 1797. He was one of the best-known choreographers in Italy, often working in collaboration with the composer Marescalchi, but he never approached the celebrity achieved by his son Salvatore. His career as an impresario, notably at the Teatro Argentina in Rome (...