Julian Littleford (1960-2013)

August 31, 2013

Julian Littleford, Photo courtesy David Hochoy


A former principal dancer with Martha Graham Dance Company and a recognized leader in Pilates fitness training, Julian Littleford died of cancer at his home in San Diego on August 31 at the age of 53.

Born outside of London, England, Julian’s early training was at the London School of Contemporary Dance. After a short stint with the Toronto Dance Theatre, he joined the Graham company in 1983 and quickly rose to the level of principal dancer in 1986. Some of his key roles were The Husbandman in Appalachian Spring, Oedipus in Night Journey, the Penitent in El Penitente, and Orestes in Clytemnestra. Many works were choreographed on him including, Temptations of the Moon, Song, and the revival of American Document. 


Littleford with Thea Nerissa Barnes in

Courtesy Hochoy


Julian was praised by the critics for his technical attack, the honesty and passion of his performances, and for his matinee-idol looks. He was a Graham “leading man” who combined the ability to execute Graham’s steps extraordinarily well with a deep commitment that spoke eloquently to audiences. He was one of Graham’s most beloved dancers and worked closely with Mikhail Baryshnikov in teaching him Graham roles.

Linda Hodes, who was associate artistic director at the time, says, “Not only was he committed, proficient, professional, and exciting onstage, but offstage he was upbeat and fun to be with. Martha was extremely fond of him, not only because he was a good dancer, but because he had those lovely civilized English manners.”

Littleford With Therese Capucilli in
Appalachian Spring

Courtesy Jessie Chatigny


“Being onstage or in the studio with Julian was always a lesson in how to be the best dancer you could possibly be,” says David Hochoy, who was a peer in the company. “He challenged you in a wonderfully competitive yet collegial manner. He was always interested in learning what made a performance great, and doing what it took to get to that place. He pushed himself to the max.”

Littleford married fellow dancer Carol S. Mead in 1985. In 1990 they moved to San Diego, CA, where he opened one of the first Pilates studios in the area. He was a pioneer in evolving Pilates from a body-conditioning method available to only an elite few to a pathway to better health and fitness accessible to everyone. His JL Body Conditioning Pilates studio became a cornerstone of San Diego’s health-and-fitness community.


Littleford with Thea Nerissa Barnes in

Courtesy MGDC


Julian was first diagnosed with cancer at 26. Despite doctors’ prognoses that his treatments would prevent him from ever having children, he and Carol were blessed with a baby, Samantha, in 1996, and another, Thomas, in 2001. His “miracle” children were sources of great joy for Julian and, just as his natural talent and hard work made him an exceptional dancer, so, too, did his natural talent and hard work make him an exceptional father. He taught them life’s lessons by example, demonstrating the rewards that come from working hard at what you love; practicing respect, kindness and honor toward others.

Julian was a sought-after guest instructor at health-and-fitness resorts, retreats, and centers around the world. He transformed countless bodies, helping people overcome injury, fatigue, and reach new heights of health and well-being. As a master teacher, he passed along his keen understanding of Pilates and body conditioning to a new generation of Pilates instructors. His DVD, Pilates for Dancers: a personal development plan, is available on Amazon.com.


Littleford with his wife, Carol Mead

Courtesy Hochoy

Friends are invited to share in a celebration of Julian’s life on Sunday, September 22, 2013, 3:00 PM at JL Body Conditioning Studio, 2010 Jimmy Durante Blvd. (858.259.1682), Del Mar, CA. In lieu of flowers and in honor of his advocacy and love of the arts, contributions may be made to Villa Musica non-profit music school in San Diego (858.550.8100) or Dance Kaleidoscope in Indianapolis (317.940. 6555 or dancekal.org). —David Hochoy and Jessie Chatigny