She Dances

She Dances
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Watching A Ballerina’s Tale, the documentary film about Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, I was reminded of the amazing women of the dance world on whose shoulders she stood. Misty will be keynoting the Women’s Foundation of Colorado lunch in Denver in September and I look forward to having the opportunity to meet her. Her comeback from major surgery on her leg is an epic story in and of itself. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. Artistic Director Emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, her dance career with the company led to her becoming an international dance star.

____ 2. Dance became her refuge from pain and racism. Today, she is the Founder, Artistic Director and Choreographer of her eponymous Dance Ensemble.

____ 3. Her name is synonymous with modern dance – the creator of 181 dance compositions.

____ 4. The first Native American to be named a prima ballerina with the New York City Ballet, in her retirement she founded and served as artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet.

  1. Martha Graham
  2. Maria Tallchief
  3. Judith Jamison
  4. Cleo Parker Robinson

Martha Graham’s influence on modern dance is such that the two are often synonymous. Founding the Martha Graham studio in 1926, she created a movement language that uses the expressive capabilities of the human body. Graham collaborated with artists across every genre – sculpture, music composers, and fashion designers. Her movement language began with the body’s ability for collection and release. This led to angular movements very different from the dance style of the time and she deeply embedded American culture and ethos in her work. Her repertoire was large – 181 dance compositions. The recipient of the Medal of Freedom, Graham has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

In 1947, Maria Tallchief broke significant barriers when she was named the first Native American prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet. During the 13 years that she was in that role, she became the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet. Her first marriage to choreographer George Balanchine resulted in many works designed for her strengths of technical precision, strength, and musicality. After her retirement in 1965, Tallchief served as the artistic director of the Lyric Opera Ballet and then founded and served as artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet. Her many honors include the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of the Arts and induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

A dancer and choreographer, Judith Jamison is the Artistic Director Emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The 50th Inductee into the Hall of Fame of the National Museum of Dance, Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and became an international star. She performed all over the world and formed her own dance company in the 1970s. She rejoined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater when Alvin Ailey asked her to become the Artistic Director upon his retirement. Her 21 years in that role led to increased international visibility and recognition for the organization. Jamison is also the recipient of an Emmy Award and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Founder, choreographer and artistic director of the Cleo Parker Dance Ensemble, Cleo Parker Robinson overcame tremendous adversity as a child and found her refuge in dance. Her kidneys began to shut down when she was ten (in 1958) and she almost died when segregated Dallas, Texas hospitals would not admit her due to her African-American heritage. Dance was her escape to cope with the pain and the racism. She credits Martha Graham as one of the major influences on her dance style and Maya Angelou as a mentor. Her philosophy of “One Spirit, Many Voices,” is reflected in everything she does. The recipient of many awards and honors, Robinson has been inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women of dance are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell their stories and help write them back into history.

(Answers 1-C, 2-D, 3-A, 4-B)

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