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Antony Tudor

(1908—1987) choreographer and ballet teacher


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(orig. William John Cook; b London, 4 Apr. 1908; d New York, 19 Apr. 1987)

British dancer, choreographer, and teacher. He began his training with Marie Rambert in 1928, and later studied with Pearl Argyle, Harold Turner, and Margaret Craske. In 1930 he joined Rambert's company as a dancer, and also as her assistant. He immediately began choreographing ballets, and his early works (all of which he starred in) included Cross-Garter'd (mus. Frescobaldi, 1931), Lysistrata (mus. Prokofiev, 1932), Adam and Eve (mus. Lambert, Camargo Society, 1932), The Planets (mus. Holst, 1934), and The Descent of Hebe (mus. Bloch, 1935). It was with his subsequent ballets Jardin aux lilas (Lilac Garden, mus. Chausson, 1936) and Dark Elegies (mus. Mahler, 1937) that Tudor began to reveal his distinctive genius for choreographing psychological depths of character combining classical dance language and expressive gesture. In 1937 he left Rambert's company and with de Mille established Dance Theatre, with Hugh Laing as principal dancer, but the company was disbanded after one week in Oxford. He choreographed The Judgment of Paris (mus. Weill) in 1938 for an ad hoc company at the Westminster Theatre in London. Later that year he formed the London Ballet with Laing, Maude Lloyd, and Peggy van Praagh as its stars; for this troupe he created Soirée musicale (mus. Rossini and Britten) and Gala Performance (mus. Prokofiev). In 1939 he and Laing moved to New York, where he became choreographer for Ballet Theatre, as well as dancing with the newly formed company. For Ballet Theatre he created Goya Pastoral (mus. Granados, 1940), Pillar of Fire (mus. Schoenberg, 1942), The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (mus. Delius, 1943), Dim Lustre (mus. R. Strauss, 1943), Undertow (mus. W. Schuman, 1945), and Shadow of the Wind (mus. Mahler, 1948). He worked for the Royal Swedish Ballet (1949–50), and New York City Ballet (1951–2), for whom he made Lady of the Camellias (mus. Verdi, 1951) and La Gloire (mus. Beethoven, 1952). In 1950 he left Ballet Theatre and was appointed director of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School; later (1957–63) he was ballet director of the Juilliard School. He made Offenbach in the Underworld for the Philadelphia Ballet Company (1954); and Echoing of Trumpets (mus. Martinů, 1963) for the Royal Swedish Ballet, where he briefly served as artistic director. As a freelance choreographer he made Shadowplay (mus. Koechlin, 1967) for the Royal Ballet, a company which had neglected him for decades, and Knight Errant (mus. R. Strauss, 1968) for the Royal Ballet Touring Company; and The Divine Horsemen (mus. Egk, 1969) for the Australian Ballet. He joined American Ballet Theatre as associate director in 1974, and choreographed The Leaves Are Fading (mus. Dvořák, 1975) and The Tiller in the Fields (mus. Dvořák, 1978), both of them made for Gelsey Kirkland. Although not especially prolific, Tudor was one of the great choreographers of the 20th century, admired by Ashton for the ‘depth charge’ of his character portrayals. He was an astute observer of human nature and behaviour, and was able to transmit a wealth of psychological detail—especially sorrow and yearning—with a single step or gesture. He was one of the first choreographers to concentrate on the emotional anguish of ordinary men and women, exploring the darkness of their interior lives with extraordinary grace and sympathy.

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Subjects: Dance.


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