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By Dance Magazine
A principal dancer with two of the Ballets Russes companies, Miguel Terekhov died in January. Along with his wife, the ballerina Yvonne Chouteau, he was co-founder of the School of Dance at University of Oklahoma and co-founder of Oklahoma City Ballet. Tall and robust, he was known as a character dancer who later developed a passion for teaching. Dance writer Camille Hardy, associate professor of dance at OU’s School of Dance, says, “He was a really warm man with a memory for details. He was an adventurer and a delightful soul.”
Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Terekhov saw his first ballet performance at age 7 and decided to study ballet. Dissuaded by his father, who had been a dancer in the Ukraine and didn’t want his son to have such a hard life, he forged ahead anyway. At 14 he first appeared with de Basil’s Original Ballet Russe in 1942, and stayed until 1947. He was a member of Sergei Denham’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1954 to 1958, and there he met Chouteau, who fell in love with him. They married in 1957 and danced briefly with the Montevideo State Opera. For a while he took over his father’s tobacco business and helped his mother with her ballet store. But the political climate in Uruguay became threatening, and in 1961, with two babies in tow, the couple headed to Oklahoma City, where she had family. (Chouteau is profiled in Lili Cockerille Livingston’s book American Indian Ballerinas.) There they were both hired to develop the dance program at the University of Oklahoma with a strong ballet focus. With Margaert d'Houbler as advisor, it became one of the first fully accredited dance departments in the U.S.
In 1961 they opened a private studio, the Chouteau-Terekhov Academy of Ballet, which grew to be the Oklahoma City Civic Ballet Company, and later, in 2008, the Oklahoma City Ballet. They continued to develop the dance program within the university’s School of Drama until a separate School of Dance was designated in 1998. Terekhov staged full-length ballets like Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Giselle, along with such original works as The Four Moons, and invited OU students to perform in them. Professor Hardy has great respect for his ballets. “One of my favorites is Tumbleweed, based on a cartoon strip, “ she says. “And he choreographed a lovely homage to Pavlova for Yvonne Chouteau.”
By 1971 the OU dance program had grown so much that Terekhov resigned from the ballet company to devote himself full-time to the university. He received many awards for his work as a teacher, and upon his retirement from OU in 1988, he was named a professor emeritus.
The University of Oklahoma School of Dance will host a memorial celebration on May 6 at 3:00 p.m. in Historic Holmberg Hall, part of the Reynolds Performing Arts Center on the OU campus. If you would like to attend, contact OU School of Dance office at (405) 325-4051 or firstname.lastname@example.org. —Wendy Perron
From top: Terekhov as the Baron in Gaite Parisienne with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; Hilarion in Giselle, with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Both courtesy OU School of Dance.