TBT: Cynthia Gregory Graces the Cover of Dance Magazine at Age 7

August 10, 2023

In the August 1953 issue of Dance Magazine, photographer Bob Willoughby documented the young dancers of Eva Lorraine’s First Children’s Ballet of California preparing for a performance—including this 7-year-old star in the making. “The enchantment of the dance shines through the lovely eyes of little Cynthia Gregory,” the issue’s “On the cover” note declares.

It was to be the first of the ballerina’s eight Dance Magazine cover appearances. Gregory was already dancing principal roles with San Francisco Ballet at age 19 when she decided to audition for American Ballet Theatre, which would be her home for the next 26 years. She quickly came to be recognized as the company’s prima ballerina—and, for many, “America’s prima ballerina, the reigning queen of classical dance,” as we noted when she was announced as the recipient of a 1975 Dance Magazine Award.

In a June 1991 cover story celebrating her retirement from ABT, she confessed to a preference for story ballets, saying, “I need a little drama to spur me on. With Grand Pas Classique, the pas de deux everybody loves watching me do, I got bored because it’s basically virtuoso technique. And there were a couple of years there when I was doing it an awful lot. So I would make up a character for myself. I’d be a different ballerina each night. Some of my friends would watch in the wings and try to guess who I was being. I’d be Suzanne [Farrell] or Carla Fracci or Violette [Verdy], and just do it in their style. It was fun.”