Sono Osato, a trailblazing ballet and musical theater dancer, passed away last Wednesday at her home in New York City.
Best known for originating the role of Miss Turnstiles in Jerome Robbins' hit On the Town—one of Broadway's first non-segregated musicals—Osato got her start at 14 as the youngest member of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, and as the troupe's first Japanese-American performer. She went on to dance for Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre), where she found success in New York City but was banned from touring in Mexico and California because of her Japanese background. For a brief time, Osato went by her mother's maiden name, Fitzpatrick, in an effort to escape the World War II-era anti-Japanese sentiment. During the war, her father was confined under military guard in Chicago as an enemy alien.
On Monday night, a memorial was held at Riverside Church to honor the life and achievements of Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell. With nearly three months to process and grieve (Mitchell passed away on September 19) the atmosphere was not that of mourning as much as reflection, reverence and admiration for who he was, what he built and what remains. (Watch the full livestream here.)
The church filled with family, artistic friends, fans and admirers. What was most gratifying was the volume of DTH alumni from the school, company and organization who traveled across the globe to pay their respects, from founding members to present dancers and students. The house of worship was filled with the sentiment of a family reunion. As Mitchell was sent home, it was a homecoming for many who have not shared air together in decades. What was palpable was the authentic bonds that Dance Theatre of Harlem and Mitchell fostered in all.
Kate Vanderliet grew up in Orinda, California, attending summer sessions at the San Francisco Ballet School. She was a principal dancer in Hello Hollywood, Hello! starring Carol Channing, at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nevada. She also played Val in A Chorus Line after the hotel had been bought by Bally's. She became a star at The Lido in Paris, and was known for her dazzling charisma on stage. Chic, petite, and sophisticated, she commanded attention and respect.
Former chair of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts dance department Linda Tarnay died on Tuesday, November 6. Her wish was to have her ashes interred in the columbarium at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery—the site of Danspace Project and just a few blocks away from the Tisch dance building.
Before her 35 years of teaching at NYU, Tarnay was a founding member of Dance Theater Workshop. She performed with choreographers like Anna Sokolow, Phyllis Lamhut and Jamie Cunningham. She also started her own company, Linda Tarnay and Dancers, and was an artist-in-residence at The Yard.
As a performer. Lisa appeared on Broadway, in dinner theater, and throughout Europe. She was a triple threat, with a lovely soprano. Fellow dancers from the European company of 42nd Street knew her by her maiden name, Lisa Fairmont. They described her as vivacious, enthusiastic, passionate, and talented. With a dazzling smile, she was as loving as she was pretty. Her speaking voice was very distinctive. Just hearing her in conversation on the other side of stage made you smile and laugh. She was kind and compassionate to the younger dancers, and gave them excellent advice. Jon Engstrom, (who reset Gower Champion's original choreography in 42nd Street) told her during rehearsal, "You remind me of Sophia Loren." She was also a former Miss Colorado and Bronco cheerleader. She will be dearly missed by her friends and family.
Sarah Tayir will live on as a legend in ballet. Here are some recollections and anecdotes, shared by a few of the countless people who loved her and appreciated her gift of both ballet and teaching, describing some perspectives on her life as it unfolded.
Sarah Tayir described her early training and career in very humble ways to Sara Jane Gould, professional dancer, coach and student in Miss Sarah's class for many years.
Sarah was the youngest of four kids. Recalling her first memory of hearing music, she was sitting in someone's lap, listening to a Brahms piece. (Decades later, Miss Sarah used the music of Brahms often in her classes). At the age of 3, when she "could barely reach to turn on the radio," she just "fell in love" with music. She would dance around and "it felt so good it had to be wrong."
Last Wednesday, Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder and ballet pioneer Arthur Mitchell died. He was 84 years old and, though vibrant and tenacious as ever, this past year the toll that illness and age were taking on him was visible.
In October when he hosted "An Informal Performance on the Art of Dance" to celebrate the donation of his archives to Columbia University's Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the upcoming Wallach Art Gallery Exhibition, he shared that his recent hip surgery left him requiring a shoe with a lift. He acknowledged his "altered state" with panache, that side-eyed smirk catching the light with a cheek bone, and ending with a chuckle that broadened to a dazzling open-mouthed smile.
Mr. Mitchell's acute awareness of his pulchritude and charm, and the adroit manner in which he wielded them, have always been key factors of his influence.
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Former New York City Ballet principal dancer and Dance Theatre of Harlem founder Arthur Mitchell passed away today in a Manhattan hospital. He was 84 years old.
Mitchell originated the role of Puck in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Oleaga Photography, Courtesy DM Archives
As a leading dancer with NYCB in the 1950s and '60s, Mitchell became indelibly associated with two roles created on him by George Balanchine: the central pas de deux in Agon (1957) and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1962). Mitchell's performance of the athletic, entwining Agon pas de deux with Diana Adams—a white woman—caused a major stir during a moment in which America was rife with racial tension.
The news of Paul Taylor's death two weeks ago at the age of 88 has sparked innumerable tributes to the choreographer. We were inspired to delve into Dance Magazine's extensive photo archives to see what images of the late modern dance titan were hiding there. We present a baker's dozen of our favorites from over the years.
Australian choreographer Janis Claxton passed away this morning after a brief battle with lung cancer, which was diagnosed this spring. She was 53.
In addition to being a prolific and wide-ranging choreographer and producer, Claxton was outspoken about issues of gender inequality in dance. Though less well-known in the U.S., her company, Janis Claxton Dance, made history this summer as only the second Scottish company to ever be invited to perform at Jacob's Pillow. Much of her work focused on making dance less intimidating, and on finding an "accidental audience," such as in POP-UP Duets (fragments of love), the 2016 work her company brought to the Pillow this summer. In it, four dancers in numerous pairings emerge from public spaces to perform short duets, each presenting a different snapshot of a relationship.
Peter was deeply loved by his students, friends, and fellow dancers. He was known for his kindness, sensitivity, and generosity of spirit. Friends described him as caring and sweet. Several recalled that he always made time for conversation with them when they ran into him on the Upper West Side. He was very aware and sensitive to people's feelings. The daily life of a ballet dancer is extremely challenging and demanding. Peter demonstrated a deep empathy for his dancers.
Cheerful and optimistic, he enjoyed an impressive forty year association with the prestigious New York City Ballet. He studied at the School of American Ballet, and became a company member under the direction of George Balanchine. He was promoted to principal status. It was an exciting and productive time.
Yesterday, modern dance giant Paul Taylor passed away. He had turned 88 at the end of July.
Considered the last of the 20th-century modern dance titans, Taylor celebrated the 60th anniversary of his company in 2014. A prolific dancemaker, he continued to make new works into his final year, the last of which premiered during the company's annual Lincoln Center season in March—his 147th. Aureole, Cloven Kingdom and Promethean Fire are among his iconic works, though perhaps none is so beloved as his 1975 masterpiece Esplanade. During his performing career, Taylor danced roles created for him by Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine, as well as in his own work.
Jocelyn Vollmar was born in San Francisco, California. Her mother was an actress in silent films, before the Hollywood movie studios were developed. In those days they filmed in Hayward, California. Jocelyn had an extensive and impressive career as a ballerina.
She grew up in the West Portal district of San Francisco. The homes there were tall, classic and impressive. They exuded quality, charm and character. She began dancing with San Francisco Ballet at the age of twelve, under the direction of William Christensen. She started out performing in small roles. At the age of seventeen, she joined the company. She was well known by locals for dancing the Snow Queen in their Nutcracker in 1944.
Dance historian, writer and educator Rose Anne Thom passed away from cancer last month. She was 72 years old. Thom was born in Montreal, where she trained in dance and studied at McGill University before moving to New York. Thom first wrote for Dance Magazine in 1968.
Angela Bowen, an influential dancer, dance teacher and activist, passed away last week at the age of 82 from Alzheimer's disease.
Early in her career, Bowen toured with the Jazz Train, a musical revue about black American popular music and dance. Bowen later co-founded the Bowen/Peters School of Dance in New Haven with her then-husband Ken Peters, where she taught primarily poor children—including Tony-winning performer LaChanze—and often for free.
Originally from Paris, Liliane Montevecchi danced for Roland Petit as a young ballet dancer. In the 1950's she signed with MGM studios. Her credits with them include Daddy Long Legs and King Creole (starring Elvis Presley.) In 1958 she performed in the Broadway musical revue La Plume de Ma Tante. She went on to star in the famous Les Folies Bergeres. She was spectacular in the show with her gorgeous body, Italian passion and French glamour.
Liliane was also an elegant, classy and dynamic actress. She looked like a cover girl, and possessed the lean, long physique of a ballerina her entire life. She was on a carefully planned schedule with her eating, always aware that she had to fit into those revealing costumes. When it came to wearing the designers' pieces, she was in a class of her own. Her mother designed for French royalty, and it showed. Liliane recalls in an interview that she never saw her mother look bad. She was raised to be conscious of the image she presented to the public, and it paid off in her extensive career.
This morning, we woke to hear the sad news that British choreographer Gillian Lynne passed away last night at age 92. The original choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera, Lynne worked on more than 60 shows on Broadway and the West End in her lifetime, and will be dearly missed by the dance world.
Jeanette Tannan Hoffman was born in 1930 in Brooklyn. She began her dance training at age 4. At age 12, she had to choose between piano and ballet. At 16, she landed a part on Broadway in Sweethearts. Soon after, as the only dancer accepted by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1946, she went on to tour with that company for five years. She then danced at Radio City Music Hall and the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and choreographed at Radio City. Dance was always one of her greatest loves: Indeed, her spark, spirit and musicality received numerous rave reviews.
In 1954, she married Edward S. Hoffman, and started a family. A devoted mother and wife, she was a beloved ballet teacher at the Irine Fokine School in Ridgewood, NJ for over 40 years. She then taught for 8 years at In the Spotlight Studio in Waldwick, NJ until age 87. She had a tremendous impact. Her commitment to superior teaching was extraordinary; many of her students went on to dance professionally. She also taught at Alvin Ailey Extension in Manhattan.
Hoffman is survived by daughter Madelyn, of Flanders, NJ, and son Steven, of Bow, WA, as well two grandsons, Galen and Forrest Hoffman, of Bow, WA.
A celebration of life will be held June 24th, 1-4pm, at In the Spotlight Studio in Waldwick. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Jeanette Tannan Hoffman Dance Scholarship Fund, c/o M. Hoffman, P.O. Box 485, Flanders, NJ 07836. Online condolences and full obituary are at www.forevermissed.com/jeanette-tannan-hoffman.
She did rhythm tap as a kid because she found it fun to make her feet talk. She turned back-flips imitating a photograph she saw on the wall at her dancing school. She donned pointe shoes to assist choreographers lecture-demonstrating their classical hows and whys. She danced on television for Andy Williams, did movies for Herbert Ross, Broadway for Michael Kidd.
She was Barbra Streisand's personally chosen stunt double for her battle royal falling down Funny Girl roller rink skating scene. She was the referenced human dancing body model for the creation, building and expansion of a major choreographer's dance technique. She was a dancer who believed that to dance was to live. She was the dancer chosen by Martha Graham to demonstrate her work after dancing in only one Graham-taught dance class. She was the teacher French dancers wanted to hold captive in their country for more of the gift she gave them. She was the mentor and teacher whose students "got it." She was the artist who created dances that made viewers want to dance. She was that rare mover who exuded a physical life energy that suggested being alive: bounding, jumping and running freely through space, even as she was simply standing still. A woman whose highly kinetic dance technique facilitated an expressivity that emanated from realms unknown, and spoke to all. She was one of a dedicated triumvirate of over-forty dance artists who danced together in consort for the purpose to further dance as an art form. She was a dancer who made music dance.
Partnering Carol was like opening a package at Christmas not knowing what was inside until opened—then, Shazam! A soulful, trust-filled, risk-takingly in synch, new each time improvisation bordering on magic—somewhere beyond reality—ensued. She was what the Gods had in mind when they invented Terpsichore. She is written across my brain, living in my spine and continues to inhabit my heart.
Carol Warner was a dancer who lived and danced from the heart by, with and for love. She has gone away from us now. She is out in deep space dancing with a new dance partner in a continuance without-end dance, dancing new dances and all the other dances ever danced on this terrestrial surface by everyone who has ever danced since time began.
Mary Jane Wolbers, 95, of Temple, New Hampshire, passed away at her home on Saturday, April 14, 2018. She was born September 15, 1922, in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of John Donald Marr, Sr. and Marian Lee (Hodkin) Marr.
She is survived by her sons, Charles Paul Wolbers, Jr. and his wife, Donna Hoffman, of South Wayne, Wisconsin, and George Ernest Wolbers and his wife, Ellen Estes, of Matthews, North Carolina; her daughters, Marian Frances Wolbers and her husband, Bruce Dengler, of Reading, Pennsylvania, and Vivian Rose Wills and her husband, Robert, of Temple, NH; her nieces, Debbie Lou and Margaret Ann; her nephews, Don and John Charles; nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Mary Jane was predeceased by her husband, Charles Paul Wolbers, Sr.; sister Ruth Elizabeth Marr; and her brother, John D. (Jack) Marr, Jr.
Gina Bugatti Goetchius died on April 27th, 2018, at her home in Mount Vernon, New York. She was born on February 14, 1951, to George Goetchius and Mildred Goetchius. Gina had an iconic, global dance career which spanned nearly five decades. She began her ballet training as a child, and later enrolled in The National Academy of Ballet as a scholarship student under the direction of Thalia Mara. After graduating, she was a trainee at Harkness House, and was promoted to become a member of the Harkness Ballet Company, where she worked with choreographers such as Vicente Nebrada, Geoffrey Holder, Brian Macdonald, Ben Stevenson, Margo Sappington and Norman Walker. She then briefly became a member of The Joffrey II, directed by Jonathan Watts.