Rosella Hightower


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(b Ardmore, Okla., 10 Jan. 1920; d Cannes, 4 Nov. 2008)

US dancer, director, and teacher. She studied with Fokine, Vilzak, and Vladimirov in New York and in 1938 joined Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, moving to Ballet Theatre as a soloist in 1941. Between 1945 and 1946 she danced variously with Massine's Ballet Russe Highlights, de Basil's Original Ballet Russe, and the Markova-Dolin company, after which she danced with Nouveau Ballet de Monte Carlo (later the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, 1947–62) where she became its star ballerina and one of the most popular dancers in Europe. During this period she also guested with other companies (including with Bruhn and Nureyev) and continued to do so until 1977. Her virtuoso technique gave her an unusually wide range, embracing both classical and contemporary repertories and she created roles in many works including Massine's Mam'zelle Angot (1943), H. Lander's La Sylphide (Cuevas production, 1953), and Béjart's Variations (1969). In 1962 she founded the Centre de Danse Classique in Cannes which became a major centre for ballet in S. France, after which she was appointed director of the Nouveau Ballet Opera de Marseille (1969–72), then of Ballet de Nancy (1975–8). She was also guest teacher with several companies, most regularly Ballet of the 20th Century (where her daughter Dominique Robier was a dancer) and in 1976 founded her own company in Cannes. In 1981 she became the first American director of Paris Opera, where she was responsible for commissioning experimental works such as Dunn's Pulcinella (1981). She left in 1983 and was then ballet director of La Scala, (1985–6). She continued to teach, also returning to the stage to dance in François Verret and Denise Luccioni's modern dance work L. et eux, la nuit (Festival de Chateauvallon, 1991). She was made Officier de la Légion d'honneur in 1988.

Subjects: Dance.

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