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Lew Christensen


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(b Brigham City, Utah, 9 May (some sources 6 May) 1909; d California, 9 Oct. 1984)

US dancer, choreographer, and ballet director. The youngest of the three dancing Christensen brothers. Like his siblings he trained with his uncle Lars Peter Christensen in Salt Lake City and continued his studies with Stefano Mascagno and L. Albertieri in New York and at Balanchine's School of American Ballet. After touring the vaudeville circuit with his brothers, he joined the American Ballet in 1936, becoming one of the most important of the early Balanchine dancers. In 1937 he was Balanchine's first American Apollo, which prompted Kirstein to write of his ‘suave and monumental elegance’ in the role. Tall, blond, and handsome, and possessed of a strong technique, he was America's first danseur noble of the 20th century. As a choreographer, he distinguished himself from the start by making works on American themes with Pocahontas (mus. E. Carter, 1936) and Filling Station (mus. V. Thomson, 1938), both for Ballet Caravan. In 1946 he joined the faculty of the School of American Ballet, and also became ballet master of Ballet Society and later New York City Ballet. In 1951 he moved to California to take over direction of the San Francisco Ballet from his brother Willam. He choreographed over 70 ballets and operas for San Francisco, including Con amore (mus. Rossini, 1953), Nutcracker (1954), Beauty and the Beast (mus. Tchaikovsky, 1958), Divertissement d'Auber (1959), Jest of Cards (mus. Krenek, 1962), and Life: A Do It Yourself Disaster (‘A Pop Art Ballet’, mus. Ives, 1965).

Subjects: Dance.


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