Virginia Johnson

(b. 1950)

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(b Washington, DC, 25 Jan. 1950)

US dancer. She studied at the Washington DC School of Ballet from 1953, a pupil of Mary Day, and later with Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook in New York. In 1969 she became associated with the fledgling Dance Theatre of Harlem performing in its first season and eventually becoming its leading ballerina, possibly the first black dancer in history to be ranked seriously as a classical ballerina. She created roles in many Mitchell ballets, including Holberg Suite (1970), Tones (1970), Rhythmetron (1971), Fête noire (1972), and his groundbreaking ‘Creole’ production of Giselle (1984). She also created roles in works by Raines (Haiku, 1973, and After Corinth, 1975); Fagan (Footprints Dressed in Red, 1986); and Tetley (Dialogues, 1991). A tall and supremely elegant dancer, Johnson possessed an unusually versatile range. Romantically lyrical in Giselle, she also excelled in 20th-century dramatic works like de Mille's Fall River Legend, Limón's The Moor's Pavane, and Bettis's A Streetcar Named Desire. She additionally danced key Balanchine ballets including Agon, Concerto Barocco, Allegro Brillante, Serenade, Tchaikovsky Pas de deux, and The Four Temperaments. Although spending most of her career with DTH she also guested with other companies including Washington Ballet and the Royal Ballet. After retiring from the stage in 1997 she taught and became editor-in-chief of Pointe magazine. She choreographed the television film Ancient Voices of Children, in which she also danced.

Subjects: Dance.

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