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Alexander, Dorothy (22 April 1904–17 November 1986), dancer, teacher, and artistic director, was born Dorothea Moses in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Frank Moses, a sales executive, and Cora Mina Thibadeau. Illness first introduced Dorothy to dance. At the age of six she was forced to spend a year immobilized by osteomyelitis. Dance was recommended to accelerate her recuperation, and the remainder of her life was devoted to the art. Every summer during her early adulthood she left Atlanta in search of the best teachers. Her choices were eclectic; they included ...

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Chase, Lucia (24 March 1897–09 January 1986), ballet dancer and dance company director, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of Irving Hall Chase and Elizabeth Hosmer Kellogg. Her family was locally prominent, its wealth based in the Waterbury Clock Company. Following her education at Bryn Mawr College, Chase chose a theatrical and singing career, taking lessons from the noted director ...

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Agnes de Mille In Three Virgins and a Devil. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-121315).

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de Mille, Agnes (18 September 1905–06 October 1993), dancer, choreographer, and writer, was born Agnes George de Mille in New York City, the daughter of William Churchill de Mille, a playwright, and Anna George, the daughter of American single-tax economist Henry George. De Mille was born into one of the entertainment world’s most powerful families and was determined to make her own career independent of her father and her uncle, the movie director ...

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Loie Fuller. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90931).

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Fuller, Loie (15 January 1862–01 January 1928), dancer and choreographer, was born Marie Louise Fuller in Fullersburg, Illinois, the daughter of Reuben Fuller, a fiddler, farmer, and tavernkeeper, and Delilah (maiden name unknown). Little is known of her education, though she claimed to have given a recitation to a “freethinking” Sunday school class at age two-and-a-half....

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Galli, Rosina (1896–30 April 1940), ballerina and ballet mistress of the Metropolitan Opera, was born in Milan, Italy. Little is known of her parents or early life. Trained at the Scuola di Ballo of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Galli distinguished herself early as an unusually precocious and popular child performer. By the age of fourteen she was dancing prima ballerina roles at La Scala and by fifteen was a guest ballerina at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples....

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Martha Graham With Bertram Ross. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1961. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116601).

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Graham, Martha (11 May 1894–01 April 1991), dancer, choreographer, and teacher, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, the daughter of George Greenfield Graham, a physician who specialized in mental disorders, and Jane (Jennie) Beers. Her father was of Irish descent and her mother proudly claimed to be a descendant of ...

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Littlefield, Catherine (16 September 1905–19 November 1951), choreographer and artistic director, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of James E. Littlefield, a newsreel pioneer, and Caroline Doebele. At the age of three she began study in her mother’s newly opened ballet school. Despite limited formal training, Littlefield’s mother was a prolific choreographer. In 1919 she was engaged to stage the production numbers for a musical called ...

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Mansfield, Portia (19 November 1887–29 January 1979), dance educator, choreographer, and camp director, was born Portia Mansfield Swett in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Edward R. Swett, a hotelkeeper, and Myra Mansfield. She received her early schooling in Winter Park, Florida, where the family moved in 1899, and, after another move, in New York City at Miss Morgan’s School for Girls (1903–1906). As a child, she danced for her own pleasure and, occasionally, for hotel guests. Entering Smith College in 1906, she majored in philosophy and psychology but also was exposed to the Delsarte System of Expression and gravitated toward the physical education department. She was instrumental in organizing a dancing class at Smith. Classmates remembered her clouds of red hair, her lissomeness and grace, and her vivacity....

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Page, Ruth (22 March 1899–07 April 1991), dancer and choreographer, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the daughter of Lafayette Page, a brain surgeon, and Marian Heinly, a professional pianist and founder of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Having decided at the age of five to become a ballerina, Ruth waited until she was twelve to begin professional training. Her early instruction included ballet lessons with Andreas Pavley and Serge Oukrainsky and fancy and skirt dancing with Anna Stanton. After meeting fifteen-year-old Ruth, world-famous ballerina Anna Pavlova encouraged her mother to allow Ruth to take summer ballet classes in Chicago with Pavlova’s company. Soon afterward Ruth Page joined the Anna Pavlova company on a tour of Latin America. On her return she attended the French School for Girls, a boarding school in New York, while studying dance under ...

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Ruth Page Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1923. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G401-T-4194).

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Rasch, Albertina (1891–02 October 1967), ballerina and choreographer, was born in Vienna, Austria, to a family of Polish Jews who were traveling players. Her parents’ names are not known. Rasch entered the Imperial Ballet School in Vienna at the age of seven and progressed rapidly, performing solo variations by the age of fourteen. American producer ...

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Trisler, Joyce (1934–13 October 1979), dance teacher and choreographer, was born in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Eva M. Trisler, an executive secretary in a trucking company. Her father’s name cannot be located in Trisler’s papers, and her parents apparently had separated by her early teens. Her childhood exposure to ballet class was less than successful, but she participated in a weekly radio broadcast and was active in school dramatic productions. During high school she began modern dance classes at the ...

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Williams, E. Virginia (12 March 1914–08 May 1984), teacher and artistic director, was born Ellen Virginia Williams in Stoneham, Massachusetts, the daughter of Charles F. Williams, an engraver and inventor, and Mary Virginia Evitts. Williams’s passion for dance began at a very early age, when her parents took her to see vaudeville. She studied with some of the better-known teachers in her city, among them Dana Sieveling (whose name she later gave to one of her students, Earle Sieveling), Geraldine Cragin, and Miriam Winslow. Throughout her life, she remained an indefatigable learner and reader....