Lucia Chase


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(b Waterbury, Conn., 24 Mar. 1907; d New York, 9 Jan. 1986)

US dancer and ballet director. Co-founder of American Ballet Theatre. She studied drama and ballet at New York's Theater Guild School and then focused on ballet with Mordkin, Fokine, Tudor, Vilzak, and Nijinska. She performed with the Mordkin Ballet from 1937 to 1939, and despite her late start performed the title roles in The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle. In 1940 she and Richard Pleasant founded Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre) with Chase as principal dancer (and prime financial backer). Here, however, she concentrated on dramatic and comedic roles, creating the role of Eldest Sister in Tudor's Pillar of Fire (1942) and the Greedy One in de Mille's Three Virgins and a Devil (1941). In 1945 she took over joint direction of American Ballet Theatre (with Oliver Smith) dedicating much of her energy and her personal fortune to the company's survival. Although she retired from the stage in 1960, she continued as company director until 1980 bringing in Tudor and Baryshnikov to ABT and encouraging US choreographers such as Robbins, Tetley, and Tharp. She retired in 1980 (when she was succeeded by Baryshnikov) and in the same year was awarded the US Medal of Freedom in 1980.

Subjects: Dance.

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