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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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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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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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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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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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Fort, Syvilla (03 July 1917–08 November 1975), dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher, was born in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of Mildred Dill. Her mother tried to enroll the four-year-old Fort in ballet classes, but teachers refused her entrance because they were afraid they would lose clientele by admitting an African-American student. Her mother then recruited a group of black children interested in learning dance and hired the advanced white ballet students to teach them. At nine Fort had private teachers and was on her way to becoming a pioneer African American in ballet and modern dance. Sensitive throughout her life to discrimination, Fort passed on what she learned to other black children. While still a high school freshman, she was teaching ballet, tap, and modern dance to as many as sixteen children under the age of thirteen for fifty cents a lesson....

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Gould, Norma (1888–30 July 1980), modern dancer, teacher, and choreographer, was born in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Murray A. Gould, was a miller and her mother (name unknown) was a music teacher. Gould’s parents encouraged her early interest in the arts, and she learned music from her mother, who combined formal instruction with the opportunity for creative expression. Gould entered Los Angeles Polytechnical High School in 1905, among the first group of students to enroll in what was then considered an experimental curriculum. Women were trained alongside men in business and college preparatory courses, and courses in music and art were exceptionally advanced. Gould was class historian and president of the Girls Club, a group that staged productions. Clippings in her scrapbook indicate that she studied dance in New York during summers while in high school....

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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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Griffiths, John (fl. 1785–1797), dancing-master and choreographer., was a Nothing is known of his parentage or early life. He may have been related to one of the Griffiths families active on the English stage during the second half of the eighteenth century, but unlike many of his contemporaries, he made no claims of background or former teachers....

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Holm, Hanya (03 March 1893–03 November 1992), choreographer and educator, was born Johanna Eckert in Worms-am-Rhein, Germany, the daughter of Valentin Eckert, a wine merchant, and Marie Moerschel, an inventor with several patented discoveries. Holm received her first twelve years of education at the Konvent der englischen Fräulein, selected by her mother for its excellent reputation and small class size. She began private piano lessons at age ten, and by age sixteen she was commuting several times each week to the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt for expanded music studies. In 1915 she began four years of study at the Dalcroze Institute of Applied Rhythm that included music improvisation, theory, analysis, and composition. The methods of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze were admired for translating sounds into movement, and this “music visualization” influenced a generation of European dancers in ballet and modern companies....

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Horton, Lester (26 January 1906–02 November 1953), choreographer and teacher, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of Iredell Horton, a laborer, and Annie Lauders. Horton began a lifelong interest in American Indian traditions during elementary school and at eighth grade commencement was honored with a request to read his composition “The Indian in His Native Art.” While a high school student in 1922–1923 Horton saw performances of the American dance pioneers ...

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Michio Ito, c. 1916–1921. Photograph by Arnold Genthe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-1577-B-002).

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Ito, Michio (13 April 1892–06 November 1961), choreographer, performer, and teacher, was born in Tokyo, the son of Tamekichi Ito, an architect, friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the first Japanese to graduate from the University of California, and Kimiye Iijima, the daughter of a zoologist. As a youth in Japan Michio had a close association with Noh, the traditional, stylized lyric drama of Japan, and also received training in the popular theatrical form, kabuki. In 1911 he traveled to Paris and Berlin where he saw ...

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Loring, Eugene (02 August 1911–30 August 1982), choreographer, dancer, and teacher, was born Leroy Kerpestein in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Gilbert Kerpestein, a boxing trainer, and Anna Raddatz. Loring’s early ambitions were focused upon becoming an actor. After graduating from high school in 1929, he joined an amateur theater group known as the Wisconsin Players. Here he met Boris S. Glagolin, a Russian theater director who followed Stanislavsky’s principles. Because Loring’s shortness in height restricted the roles in which he was cast, Glagolin encouraged the aspiring performer to turn instead to dance, and in 1934 he choreographed ...