Black ballet dancers
Posted 06 July 2001 - 01:35 PM
Off the top of my head (and I know I'm forgetting some people) -- and ballet only -- In DTH: Lydia Abarca, one of the most lusciously elegant dancers I've ever seen; Eddie J. Shellman (I always thought it a shame he didn't dance Spartacus) and Ronald Perry, two of the finest men dancing in the 1980s and early '90s, in my book. Christine Johnson, one of the few truly classical American ballerinas I've ever seen, and I still want to know what happened to her. Alica Graf, who, in the roles that Arthur Mitchell cast her (I missed him, alas) was superb (and I hope to see her again). Lorraine Graves, a giantess (and wonderful Myrtha).
Christopher Boatwright, of Stuttgart and later San Francisco Ballet.
Debra Austin of New York City Ballet -- one of the best jumpers I've ever seen. She created a solo in "Ballo della Regina."
I'll think of more later. Anyone else?
Posted 06 July 2001 - 02:18 PM
there are two wonderful up and coming dancers that i have seen recently. one is
eric underwood who is in the corps of pacific northwest ballet (he shined recently in a new kevin o'day piece). he was memorable because he seemed to have so much more depth and interest on stage than any other male corps memeber. the other one is toni doctor who dances with atlanta ballet. she has an amazing combination of grace and glamour. you are almost reminded of a 1940's movie star when you watch her.
Posted 06 July 2001 - 02:30 PM
Posted 06 July 2001 - 04:25 PM
Posted 06 July 2001 - 06:52 PM
Until recently we had two men in the Corps: Ikolo Griffin and Chidozie Nzerem. Ikolo just left for DTH.
Posted 06 July 2001 - 09:42 PM
I haven't seen her, but Houston Ballet's Lauren Anderson is supposed to be pretty good.
Posted 06 July 2001 - 11:37 PM
Skin color seems to be a factor as well. It's easier for lighter-skinned dancers to blend into the ensemble, and there may well be black dancers in companies who are not identified as such by the audience. (Gary Chryst who danced with the Joffrey Ballet for many years comes to mind.) There are also probably light-skinned dancers who are "passing" for white - a friend of mine who had a good career here and abroad did this.
During the twenties and thirties, many black Americans went to Russia at the behest of the Communists. One of them, a dancer named Scott, had a daughter who was a soloist with the Bolshoi, Marjorie (Yulamei) Scott. I believe she teaches at the school these days.
Posted 07 July 2001 - 09:01 AM
Now my question: Does anyone recall the name of the former NYCB dancer who was discovered several years ago in a NYC hospital? His social worker was able to verify that he had been in the company and had danced in the original production of "Illuminations". He became a sort of "poster old boy" for the Dancers' Relief Fund. He was placed successfully in a retirement home and is still, to the best of my knowledge, alive.
Posted 07 July 2001 - 09:16 AM
Posted 07 July 2001 - 09:19 AM
i looked for a way to email it to you but couldn't find one.
it was dated 1998
NEW YORK (AP) -- Arthur Bell, a 71-year-old man, was found homeless and disoriented on a Brooklyn street last month, barely standing, his feet frozen. He told paramedics that he was once a ballet dancer in Paris.
``And they went, `Yeah, yeah, yeah,''' recalled social worker Maria Mackin.
Bell's medical chart, after all, noted possible signs of dementia.
But during the days that followed, Bell would tell Ms. Mackin tales of
Paris and London, Frederick Ashton, Margot Fonteyn, Olga Preobrajenskaya,
Katherine Dunham and James Baldwin.
``He started telling me things that only someone who was really in the dance world would know. And I thought, `This is not dementia,''' said Ms. Mackin, who happened to have been a ballet photographer at one time. She also saw that Bell was ``incredibly graceful ... slender, sleek.''
The accuracy, the richness of detail and the clarity with which he spoke led her to the New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Bell's story checked out. He had been a pioneering black ballet dancer. Though he was no star, he left his artistic mark on the 1940s and '50s, ``when there was no place for African-Americans in classical ballet,'' said Madeleine Nichols, curator of
the dance collection at the library.
Bell worked odd jobs after his dance career ended, but can't remember how he wound up on the street, where he had been living for months in the dead of winter. His last address was a men's shelter. He would have been sent back there had Ms. Mackin not intervened.
Now he's in a nursing home, recuperating from frostbite on his feet and legs. Slowly, he's learning to walk again with a cane. He uses a wheelchair most of the time.
``I convinced them that he needed a higher level of care,'' Ms. Mackin said. ``I said, `This is a guy who was a pioneer in the dance world. He's special, he's an important part of African-American culture. We should go out of our way to help him.'''
Before she became a social worker, Ms. Mackin was a photographer for Capezio, the dance shoe company. She took photos of dance greats such as Rudolf Nureyev and Bob Fosse.
When Bell was rescued off the street, ``the very first thing I asked was, `Do you have Medicare?''' Ms. Mackin recalled. ``And he said, `Oh, I'm not really sure. We didn't have to worry about these things when I lived in Paris and London, it's a different medical system.' And I thought, oh, this
is a very sophisticated man. That was an awakening from my usual clients.
``I asked, `What were you doing in Paris?'''
And his story began to unfold. ``I was absolutely thrilled,'' Ms. Mackin said. ``I thought, oh my God,this is incredible, if this is true. And I really believed it was true and that the world had let this man slip through the cracks.''
Bell speaks of dance with a lucid passion that awakens his frail, 5-foot-11 body. Sitting in a wrinkled bathrobe, he arches his long neck and uses his long fingers to punctuate his remarks with lively elegance. The muscles in his legs are still sculptured.
The eldest of a Florida preacher's nine children, Bell finished high school and got on a bus to New York. He quickly found a job in the garment district and started taking dance classes with Dunham.
He moved to Paris in the early '50s, where he said he lived in the same rooming house as Baldwin, the writer. He danced with the Ballets de la Tour Eiffel while studying with Preobrajenskaya, the retired Russian ballerina.
In 1950, Ashton, the great British choreographer, chose him as a guest soloist in the New York City Ballet's world premiere of ``Illuminations.''
Bell returned to New York in the '60s, forced to give up his career as he approached 40. His life slid away. Bell, who receives $400 a month in Social Security, is waiting for his Medicaid application to be processed and wants to move to ``somewhere where I could be near the theater most of the time.'' He also wants to establish a scholarship fund for struggling young minority dancers.
Not being able to dance anymore doesn't trouble him, he said, ``because when you love something, the love for it just goes beyond anything. Dancing is in my soul.''
Ms. Mackin and her husband visit Bell twice a week.
``It makes you think about the judgments you make -- like reading the chart,'' she said. ``We have to listen to what people say instead of reading charts.''
[ 07-07-2001: Message edited by: pmeja ]
Posted 07 July 2001 - 12:01 PM
Tanya Wideman danced with Joffrey Ballet for one season in 1999.
Did I miss Virginia Johnson in this thread?
Posted 07 July 2001 - 03:05 PM
Did I miss Sylvester Campbell somewhere in here?
Posted 07 July 2001 - 04:09 PM
I didn't forget Virginia Johnson. I'm one of about three people in the Western world who didn't love her dancing. But she was an important dancer and anyone who did is free to rave about her
Posted 07 July 2001 - 06:14 PM
Mel Tomlinson danced with DTH and later with NYCB. He had wonderful long legs and was very limber. I think he danced AGON pas with Heather Watts.
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