Ross was far too ambitious to remain long in any chorus line. He started to write about dance, and in 1950 he became the rather acidulated New York correspondent of a start-up English dance magazine, Dance and Dancers. His writing career was short-lived. He had been spotted by both George Abbott and Jerome Robbins; in 1951 Abbott invited him to do the choreography for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and the young Ross was on his way. His big break came in 1954 when George Balanchine bowed out of the Harold Arlen/Truman Capote musical House of Flowers and Ross was picked to replace him.
All this time Ross was still toying with ballet. In 1950, Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith instituted a Ballet Theatre Workshop program for which Ross created Caprichos, a fascinating series of dance-drama vignettes based on Goya etchings, which was taken into the regular company repertoire. This was followed by The Maids (1957), based on the Jean Genet play, and a number of other ballets, including, in 1958, Tristan for Nora Kaye and Erik Bruhn. Soon after, he married Kaye and they formed their own dance company, starting at the Spoleto Festival, called Ballet of Two Worlds. It soon ended, and Ross would never create another ballet.
His career as a Broadway director got off to a shaky start when in 1965 he was entrusted with the musical Kelly, which closed on its opening night. However, he was progressing in Hollywood as a choreographer, and in 1969 he stepped in as director of the musical version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. He had a natural way with actors--which Hollywood noticed--and he never looked back. He did return to Broadway, but chiefly as a director of Neil Simon comedies.
He directed and produced (in association with Kaye, who died in 1987) three significant dance films: The Turning Point (the most influential dance film since The Red Shoes), the underrated Nijinsky, and last and least, Dancers. He also, together with Kaye (after her death he married Lee Radziwill; they divorced shortly before his death), played a part in Ballet Theatre policy, particularly with the engagement of Kenneth MacMillan as the company's artistic associate.
Caprichos deserves to be revived, but Ross's lasting memorial will certainly be The Turning Point, revealing his great skill at making stage choreography come alive onscreen.
Richard Buckle, who died in Salisbury, England, on October 12, 2001, was perhaps the last of the gentlemen dance critics and perhaps the first of the professionals who replaced them. Born in 1916 in Warcop in the English County of Westmorland, of mildly aristocratic birth, he was educated at Marlborough School and, briefly and degreeless, at Oxford. During World War II he served with great distinction as a major in the Scots Guards.
He became fascinated with ballet through reading Romola Nikinska's biography of her husband, Vaslav Nijinsky. In 1939 he had the idea--famously said to have come to him on the top of a London bus--of a dance magazine to be called simply Ballet. Before the European war broke out in September of that year he had managed to get two issues of his magazine to press. After the war, starting up again in 1946 until 1952, it was, with its articles, reviews, photographs, and drawings, a touchstone of dance taste.
Buckle himself became a brilliantly, sometimes bitchily, witty critic, whose artistic heart--championing the likes of Ashton, Balanchine, and Graham--was usually in the right place. He was ballet critic of the Observer from 1948 until 1955, and in 1959 became dance critic of The Sunday Times, where he remained until 1975. He also brought a rare taste and sensibility to a series of exhibitions, notably the Diaghilev Exhibition in Edinburgh and London in 1954. He was a serious dance scholar and produced the standard works on Nijinsky (1971) and Diaghilev (1979).
Jane Dudley, who died September 19, 2001, in London, was a heroic dancer both in proportion and in style. Nobody realized this more than Martha Graham, in whose company Dudley was a major force from 1937 to 1944. Honesty and directness shone through in her performing and characterized her teaching.
In Graham's Letter to the World (1940), inspired by Emily Dickinson's poetry, Dudley's presence as the Ancestress, the "postponeless Creature," towered. And in Deaths and Entrances (1943) Dudley's powerful torso, spiraling like the trunk of a storm-wracked tree, brought fierce contrast to Graham's dark romanticism and Sophie Maslow's pathos.
Dudley was born April 3, 1912, in New York. Her most influential early training was with Hanya Holm, in whose group she performed until she joined the Graham company,
Like many a modern dancer of the 1930s and '40s, Dudley's initial choreographic bent was socially conscious. Typical solos were Time Is Money and In the Life of a Worker. She became a member, and eventually president, of the New Dance Group, a school and performing organization whose orientation was also strongly social.
In 1942, Dance Observer sponsored a concert featuring Dudley, Maslow, and William Bales. Out of this emerged the Dudley-Maslow-Bales Trio, which toured extensively until 1954. One of Dudley's most enduring dances was Harmonica Breakdown, an endearingly gauche choreographic journey structured around a repeated shuffle.
By the mid-1950s, Dudley had begun to be grounded by arthritis. But in 1967, choreographer Richard Kuch prevailed upon her to create the principal role in The Brood, his interpretation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage. Critic Jack Anderson found her portrayal "unsurpassed." Two years later she reprised her Ancestress role with comparable effect.
In 1970 she moved to London to teach and become an administrator at the London Contemporary Dance School. She remained active until 1998. Her last appearance was in the film Dancing Inside. In 2000, the Dance Heritage Coalition selected Dudley as one of the first 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures.
Dudley was divorced from filmmaker Leo Hurwitz. She is survived by her son, Thomas Dudley Hurwitz, a cinematographer, and by three grandchildren.
Barbara Matera, the costumer whose Barbara Matera Ltd. has long been New York City's premiere theatrical costume shop, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on September 13 at the age of 72. The program credit "costumes executed by Barbara Matera" was regularly found at performances that upheld the highest design standards.
Born in Kent, England, she moved to the United States in 1960 after launching her career in British costume shops, including Covent Garden and the Old Vic. Her detailed, distinctive work graced more than 100 Broadway productions, including such landmark musicals as Follies, Dreamgirls, 42nd Street, Sunday in the Park With George, and Sunset Boulevard.
Matera's genius was for taking the sketches of celebrated designers--Irene Sharaff, Freddy Wittop, Florence Klotz, Theoni V. Aldredge, Christian Lacroix, among many others--and bringing them to life. She constructed costumes for films, opera, and dance.
Matera was director of the New York City Ballet's costume shop from 1986 to 1991, continuing on as consultant until spring 2001. Her extensive ballet work included Peter Martins's lavish 1991 New York City Ballet production of The Sleeping Beauty and American Ballet Theatre's current Swan Lake and Gaite parisienne. Her work in dance included Houston and San Francisco Ballets and the companies of Lar Lubovitch, Paul Taylor, Eliot Feld, and David Parsons. She also designed costumes for several NYCB ballets by Peter Martins and others, including Les Petits Riens, Mozart Serenade, Tanzspiel, and Five.
"Dressmaking is a trade, but it can also be an art, and working with performers, it takes on an even more complicated facet and almost becomes a vocation," Matera was quoted in a 1996 exhibit of her work at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
She is survived by her husband and business manager, Arthur Matera, and a sister, Pauline Ritchie-Fallon. Barbara Matera Ltd. continues to operate under shop manager Jared Aswegan.
Robert Pagent, whose career encompassed the Ballets Russes, the golden era of Broadway musicals, and the pioneering days of televised dance, died of a stroke on September 4, 2001, at the age of 87. Born Robert Weisser on December 12, 1913, in Pittsburgh, he soon moved with his family to Gary, Indiana. After his father's death when Robert was 13, he helped support the family by working as a partner in a ballroom dance studio. The owner encouraged the tall young man to train seriously, which he did in Chicago with Ruth Page.
He performed with the Chicago Opera Ballet, then joined Col. W. de Basil's Ballets Russes, dancing under the name Anton Vlasoff. Following that company's labor standoff in Havana, Cuba, he switched to the Denham-Massine troupe, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, in 1941 for two seasons, performing as the square-dance caller in the premiere of Agnes de Mille's Rodeo. He later danced briefly with Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre).
He took over the leading dance role in Oklahoma! after Marc Platt's opening-night injury, then had featured roles in the original casts of two more de Mille Broadway hits, One Touch of Venus and Carousel. He was the original carnival boy in Carousel's extended second-act ballet. His eight Broadway shows also included three (Call Me Madam, Miss Liberty, and Two's Company) choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with whom he remained good friends.
He worked extensively as a dance director for television, choreographing and staging dances for The Bell Telephone Hour (including Nureyev's first American television appearance in 1962) and Voice of Firestone, as well as several Miss America Pageants.
In 1998, Pagent joined other alumni of de Mille musicals in New York to reconstruct major dance sequences from One Touch of Venus for a videotape that is now available at the Dance Division of the New York City Public Library. He is survived by his longtime companion and business partner, William J. Schneider; a brother, Donald Weisser of Chicago; a son, Anthony Pagent of Alexandria, Virginia; and a grandson, Christopher.
Laura Foreman, an artist, writer, and teacher, directed the dance program at the New School University from the late 1960s until her death on June 15, 2001, of cancer at the age of 64.
Born in Santa Barbara, California, Foreman danced with Helen Tamiris in her early years, and also with Daniel Nagrin. She completed her degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and then moved to New York in the mid-1960s. Soon thereafter she became the director of dance at the New School, where her Foreman Dance Theater and Composers' and Choreographers' Theater were in residence. She provided an outlet for new talent at her Choreoconcerts and Critiques series, where choreographers, dancers, and composer/musicians could gain much-needed exposure. She and her company performed regularly into the 1970s. She was the recipient of several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others.
Foreman was well known as an artist. "Wallwork," created in 1981 with her husband, composer John Watts, was a conceptual event that existed only in advertising posters and on a telephone reservations number. When a sold-out sign was added to the posters, the reservations number grew very busy. She worked in film and video as well, and won a bronze medal in the category of Documentary: Women in Film at the Houston International Film Festival for TimeCoded Woman I, II, III.
Foreman began to focus more intensely on her art and writing after her husband's death in 1982. The 1990 sculpture "Birdhouse as Metaphor" was shown at the Souyun Yi Gallery in SoHo and many of her sculptures were installed in various neighborhood gardens throughout Manhattan. Her short stories were published in journals and collected into a book, Close Encounters, published in 1997 by CRS Outloudbooks. She was also a co-founder and member of Artists and Scientists in Collaboration.
"Laura was constantly aware of the beauty and comedy of life. She was very encouraging, and had a tremendous amount of caring and respect for her peers," says Meli Zinberg, a fellow teacher at the New School. "Even while she was sick she was still inspiring people to do what made them happy."
Foreman is survived by her companion, Richard Keene, and her mother, Gladys Foreman of Los Angeles.
Kenneth Wright, born on March 28, 1969, died after a brief illness on October 2, 2001. He trained in New York at the Performing Arts Center and went on to dance professionally in Europe and Japan, eventually returning and dancing with the Ballet Theatre of Westchester in upstate New York. He danced lead roles in Giselle, Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, and The Nutcracker. He was a deeply religious man who had a great love of dance.
--Courtesy Ballet Theatre of Westchester
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|Title Annotation:||recent deaths in the dance world|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2002|
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