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Albertieri, Luigi (1860–25 August 1930), dancer, choreographer, and teacher, was born in Rome, Italy. Little is known of Albertieri’s parents, aside from the fact that his mother was widowed when he was very young. He was adopted at the age of eight by the Italian dancer and ballet master Enrico Cecchetti and Cecchetti’s wife, Giuseppina. Cecchetti had noticed Albertieri in a juvenile opera company’s performance of ...

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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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George Balanchine In make-up and costume for Don Quixote, with Suzanne Farrell, 1965. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-120878).

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Balanchine, George (22 January 1904–30 April 1983), ballet choreographer, was born Georgii Melitonovich Balanchivadze in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the son of Meliton Balanchivadze, a composer, and Maria Nikolaevna Vasil’eva. Balanchine was of Georgian extraction on his father’s side; for this reason, he later insisted that his character owed more to Mediterranean culture than to Slav. He began piano lessons at the age of five, studying first with his mother, and was accepted into the ballet section of the Imperial Theater School, Saint Petersburg, in 1913. His financially straitened parents were motivated principally by the chance to secure him a free education. In addition to full board, the school offered a complete academic program as well as the finest dance instruction in the country; graduation guaranteed an income for life, first as a dancer, then as a teacher or coach, all subsidized by the tsar. As was customary for students, during his second year Balanchine performed with the Imperial Ballet troupe on the stage of the famed Maryinsky Theater; this crystallized his desire to dance. The ballet that so inspired him was ...

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Bales, William (27 June 1910–08 September 1990), dancer and teacher, was born in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, the son of Sam Bialystotsky and Dora (maiden name unknown), the owners of a fruit and vegetable store. Bales’s older stepsisters, Anne and Gertrude, started the family’s interest in theatrical performance. They studied dance in nearby Pittsburgh, then Gertrude started offering classes in their home. Bales began lessons at age fourteen in tap, acrobatics, and ballroom, but he considered the movies to be equally influential on his dancing, especially the films of ...

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Beatty, Talley (1919–29 April 1995), choreographer, dancer, and teacher, was born in Cedar Grove, Louisiana, the son of a house painter. His parents’ names are unknown. In the small town of Cedar Grove, right outside Shreveport, Beatty’s earliest dance influence was the legendary Katherine Dunham. When he was eleven years old, she invited him to “watch dances in progress,” according to historian Joe Nash, a close friend and colleague of Beatty. Dunham was in rehearsal for ...

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Belcher, Ernest (08 June 1882–24 February 1973), ballet teacher and movie dance director, was born in London, England, the son of Mark Belcher, a butcher, and Emily (maiden name unknown). Belcher attended high school, apprenticed in an architect’s office, and studied piano and painting. Belcher had no exposure to dance or theater until he was sixteen, when attendance at orchestral concerts made him realize that “expression of myself in gesture and movement was to be the great dominating force in my life.” Against the wishes of his parents he began to study dance, first with the music-hall star Ethel Payne, then with Francesca Zanfretta, a well-known ballet teacher in London, and finally with Alexandre Genée, uncle and teacher of the Danish ballerina Adeline Genée. He also studied period and national folk dances with Louis d’Egville and Cormani, Spanish dances under Caroline Otero, Lopes and Tortola Valencia, and Malaganita, and Indian and oriental dances under Roshanara....

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Bolm, Adolph (25 September 1884–15 April 1951), dancer, teacher, and choreographer, was born Adol’f Rudol’fovich Bolm in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the son of Rudolf Bolm, a concertmaster and assistant conductor of the Mikhailovsky Imperial Theater Orchestra. His mother’s name is unknown. Among his four brothers, he was called “little bear” because of his ungainliness. Their home was filled with music and their father’s artist friends. By all accounts, these years formed Bolm’s love of all the arts as well as his inordinate vigor and sense of adventure....

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Bonfanti, Maria (16 February 1847–25 January 1921), ballerina and teacher, also known as Marie and as Marietta, was born in Milan, Italy, the daughter of Gaetano Bonfanti, an army veteran, and Graziosa Geroni. Bonfanti received her dance training from Carlo Blasis, the ballet master of the La Scala Opera House, in his private school in Milan. In January 1860 she made her debut in Vercelli, Italy, and the following fall was featured at La Scala in Meyerbeer’s ...

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Camryn, Walter (22 July 1903–29 February 1984), dancer, choreographer, and teacher, was born Walter Cameron in Helena, Montana, the son of Angus Cameron, a cattle rancher, and Rose Ann Hodge. Camryn’s early years in Montana among pioneer homesteaders influenced the style and themes of his dancing and choreography. From the age of six he witnessed and participated in the rural dances of the community. The early twentieth century was the heyday of vaudeville, and young Camryn saw much popular dance of that genre, also an influence on his distinctive choreography....

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Cansino, Angel (1898?–19 March 1956), dancer and dance teacher, was born in Madrid, Spain, the son of Antonio “Padre” Cansino and Carmen (maiden name unknown), Spanish dancers. Antonio was the patriarch of three generations of Spanish dancers (both classical and exhibition ballroom) and teachers, many of whom lived and worked in the United States around the middle years of the twentieth century. Angel began to dance professionally with the Cansino family in Madrid at age eight. He emigrated to America around 1915 as part of a troupe known as the “Dancing Cansinos,” made up of his older brother Eduardo and older sister Elisa. The Dancing Cansinos performed primarily on the vaudeville circuit, but Angel soon left the troupe to settle permanently in New York City as a teacher. He married an American ballet dancer, Susita, in New York. (Her last name and the date of their marriage are unknown.) They had one child, Carmina Susanne, who had the distinction of actually being born in Carnegie Hall, where the Cansinos had an apartment and studio. Susita taught with Angel in New York, and Carmina later had a career as a performer and teacher as well....

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Celli, Vincenzo (04 May 1900–28 February 1988), dancer and dance teacher, was born Vincenzo Yacullo in Salerno, Italy. The family (his parents’ names are unknown) emigrated to Chicago when he was a young child. As a teenager Celli performed in Shakespearean and other theatrical performances at Hull-House, the famous settlement house directed by ...

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Chalif, Louis Harvey (25 December 1876–24 November 1948), ballet dancer and teacher, was born in Odessa, Ukraine. His parents’ names are unknown. A graduate of the Russian Imperial Ballet School, Chalif was a child dancer in the ballet Excelsior with ballerina Virginia Zucchi at the Odessa Municipal Theater in 1887. He studied at the ballet school connected with the theater under Alfred Bekefi, Ivan Savitsky, and Thomas Nijinsky, father of Vaslav Nijinsky and ...

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Christensen, Harold (25 December 1904–20 February 1989), ballet dancer and teacher, was born Harold Farr Christensen in Brigham City, Utah, the son of Christian Bjerregaard Christensen, a musician and teacher of social dances, and Mary Isabell Farr. As a youth in Brigham City and Ogden, Utah, Christensen was instructed in the social dances of the day by his father and by his uncle Moses Christensen, who was president of the American National Association, Masters of Dancing in 1916–1917. After one year at West Point (1924–1925), Harold returned to the family dancing school in Ogden, then under the direction of his older brother Willam. Harold trained in ballet under Willam, and in 1927 he took over the school so that Willam and a third brother, ...

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Colby, Gertrude Kline (1875?–01 February 1960), dance educator, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her parents’ names and occupations are unknown. While little is known of her childhood, Colby was reportedly interested in physical activities from an early age. She began her higher education with a brief stint at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine (dates unknown). In 1910 she attended Harvard University for the first of four summer sessions led by ...

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Craske, Margaret (26 November 1892–18 February 1990), ballet dancer and teacher, was born in Kirkley, England, the daughter of Edmund George Craske, a coal merchant, and Hannah Bishop. At the age of eighteen Craske began formal ballet study in London with a Madame Van Dyck and the expatriate Russian ballerina Serafina Astafieva. Having been warned against studying with Enrico Cecchetti, a former dancer and ballet master with Serge Diaghilev, because he was considered too old to teach, Craske visited his studio in 1918 out of curiosity. She later recalled, “There was a lion teaching, not an old man at all” ( ...

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Danielian, Leon (31 October 1920–08 March 1997), American dancer, teacher, and choreographer, was born in New York City, the son of Frank Danielian and Varsik Koolidganian Danielian, recent émigrés from Armenia. His mother was born in Tiflis, Georgia, and his father in Harpout, Armenia. They settled first in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where his older sister Hercelia was born. When the family moved to New York, his mother was active in the Armenian community; she taught the Armenian language in all five boroughs and was a gifted Armenian actress as well. His father was a rug dealer who bought and sold oriental rugs that he imported or found at auctions and private sales....

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William Dollar Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1935. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 328 P&P).

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Dollar, William (20 April 1907–28 February 1986), dancer, choreographer, and teacher, was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, the son of Edward Dollar, a Hungarian grocer, and Catherine Hoffman. Because his mother was opposed to dance he did not inform her when, in his senior year of high school, he began taking classes in “acrobatic adages” with a local teacher, a Miss Clark, who did not charge him. There he was seen by Bob Alton, who immediately billed him and his partner into the vaudeville shows that were given between films at the Missouri Theatre. Alton’s wife then sent Dollar to New York to see Mikhail Mordkin, the Russian dancer and teacher, who got him a scholarship at the Murray Anderson school, where Mordkin taught. In 1930 Dollar went with the Mordkin company to Philadelphia, where that same year ...

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Irma Duncan: Duncan Dancers Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-5515-D-006).