Lenore Latimer (1935–2012)

October 8, 2012

Lenore Latimer, modern dancer, teacher, choreographer was told at age 7 she didn’t have the body to dance, but as we who know her remember with a startled shock on first sight, she actually looked like what you might get if Botticelli’s Venus had stepped off the shell and donned dancewear. Devoted, generous, passionately involved in her work, Lenore had deep wide-set eyes and beautiful high cheekbones above a mouth that grew increasingly heroic with age. At age 7, she returned with her sister Peggy to another dance teacher and danced and taught until her death at 77 on September 26.


Lenore majored in dance at the University of Wisconsin, but when she saw the Limón Company on tour moved to New York where she was admitted to Juilliard and graduated in 1959. She studied choreography with Doris Humphrey and Louis Horst—two of the first to teach it as a distinct discipline. She began ballet with Antony Tudor, also a faculty member at Juilliard. Lenore remarked “I should have taken ballet earlier. He tore me to shreds. I left every class bloody and raw. But he was always happy to sit next to me at lunch.”


Limón invited Lenore to join his company as soon as she graduated, and she toured with him from 1959 to ’69. In 1960 the State Department sponsored their tour of every country in South America and in 1963 a tour of Southeast Asia. She also danced in Anna Sokolow’s company (which is where I met her), performing in Anna’s Deserts, Opus ’63, Dreams, Rooms and Lyric Suite.


She danced with the American Dance Theater, a short-lived modern dance repertory group, at Lincoln Center, and with the Valerie Bettis Studio Company and had her work produced in New York at Riverside Church, the midtown YMHA and Clark Center. She was a guest artist in Bonn, Germany and Tuscany, Italy. She formed her own company Latitudes in 1979 and continued to choreograph. She began teaching at Bard College in 1979 and continued until the last semester before her death. She choreographed over 30 works, showing great originality, structural and rhythmic sophistication, and iconoclastic humor. Under “Rate Your Professor,” one devoted Bard student proclaimed with highest rating for Lenore, “Old enough to do whatever she wants, and fabulous.” For decades she made the trip to an ardent following of women in the modern dance community of Nyack to teach her beloved Limón technique. After her marriage ended, she lived alone in an apartment where one room was left bare for her to work out with unflagging joy, persistence, and devotion, her classes and her choreography.


Back in the 1960s and ’70s she was an enthusiastic member of Jeff Duncan’s early Dance Theater Workshop Repertory Company where she danced in her colleagues’ works: Jeff’s, Art Bauman’s, Barbara Roan’s and mine. But one of her most memorable roles was surely that of the titular Raven of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem in the humorist choreographer John Wilson’s work, Poe Pourri. John striving at his Gothic desk droned “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,” and would look up as Lenore in her statuesque body draped in shredded raven wings would rise above his desk to imperiously quothe, “Nevermore.”


And indeed, those of us who loved her and worked with her—a sparkling, determined and self-made soul will indeed, “Sorrow for the lost Lenore.” —Kathryn Posin


Above: Latimer with John Wilson, photo by Victor Cornelius, Dance Magazine Archives

At top: Latimer at the early Dance Theater Workshop, Photo by Richard Barnet, Dance Magazine Archives