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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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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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Judith Brin Ingber

Berk, Fred (25 January 1911–26 February 1980), dancer, was born Fritz Berger in Vienna, Austria, the son of Jacob Berger, a dairy owner, and Henrietta Blau. Berk was born into a Viennese Orthodox Jewish family to a stern father who apprenticed him at age fourteen to a goldsmith. Hunching over his metalwork led to back problems and the medical suggestion to study dance. This began a career that spanned continents and decades....

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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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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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Christensen, Lew (06 May 1909–09 October 1984), ballet dancer, choreographer, and company director, was born Lewellyn Farr Christensen in Brigham City, Utah, the son of Christian Bjerregaard Christensen, a musician and teacher of social dances, and Mary Isabell Farr. Lew Christensen was raised in a family that emphasized developing one’s talents in music and dance. One uncle, Moses Christensen, was active in the American National Association, Masters of Dancing and served as that organization’s president in 1916–1917. Lew studied the cello under his father and began ballet training under another uncle, Lars Peter Christensen, who forwarded the talented nephew to the Italian maestro Stefano Mascagno in New York....

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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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Hawkins, Erick (23 April 1909–23 November 1994), dancer and choreographer, was born Frederick Hawkins in Trinidad, Colorado, the only son of an inventor. During his childhood he moved briefly to Pomona, California, and then to Kansas City, Missouri, where he completed his schooling in public schools. Receiving a scholarship to Harvard College from the local alumni association, he matriculated in 1926 and graduated four years later with a major in ancient Greek language and civilization....

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Erick Hawkins Performing in Martha Graham's ballet El Flagellante. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92947).

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Limón, José (12 January 1908–02 December 1972), dancer and choreographer, was born José Arcadio Limón in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, the son of Florencio Limón, a musician, and Francisca Traslaviña. The family immigrated to the United States in 1915, eventually settling in Los Angeles. Limón attended the University of California for a year, but in 1928 he left school to pursue a career as a painter in New York. This proved to be an unhappy choice, when Limón realized his own painting would never match that of his idol, El Greco....

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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 ...