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Memoriam - Page 3

In Memoriam - Jed Danforth

Jed Danforth

It is with great sadness we report the sudden death of former DO40 Board Member Jed Danforth during his vacation to Sweden and Russia. There was a memorial service held at the Redden Funeral Home on West 14th Street on August 3rd.  Many of Jed’s DO40 friends and dance classmates attended the service.  Jed was a jovial spirit, well liked by all, and loved participating,  and volunteering, at all DO40 events.  He was stage right in the wings at our dance concerts, always there for ushering, ticket taking, computer issues -- whatever it was, Jed was there to help out.  Donations can be made in his name to Jed’s favorite organizations, Dancers Over 40 or CTFD.


Frankie Manning (Mr. Lindy Hop) - 94

by Gregg Mayer

Many swing-era affecionados are mourning the recent death of Frankie Manning.

Having spent at least a decade giving lindy-hop demo's all over (in a busking kind of way), from trans-atlantic steamers to local dance halls, I was intrigued to read more on this master of the Lindy Hop.

Manning made the traditional move from Harlem's famous Savoy through Broadway and onto Hollywood. As a choreographer and teacher, he was highly regarded by all terpsichores. Maybe it was because the dance itself gave each partner equal rhythmic and choreographic time and space. Maybe it was due instead to Manning's delightful description of it as "a series of three-minute romances."

But whatever the attraction, the dance style evolved from the early 30's with Manning appearing in the prestigious troupe, Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. It moved on to the Cotton Club and then the dancers travelled the globe, including a royal command performance at the London Palladium and, inevitably on to Hollywood.

Enjoying a long career and an even longer life, "Mr. Lindy Hop" had an impressive resume, from working with Olsen and Johnson's Broadway show, "Hellzapoppin'," to dancing with partner Ann Johnson to music by Count Basie and even appearing in Ken Burns' PBS documentary series, "Jazz," singled out as the only dancers in the film.

Interestingly, after many job changes, age-related stoppages and the usual vicissitudes of an extended career, Manning won a Tony Award 30 years ago along with Cholly Atkins and others for their choreographic contribution to the revue, "Black and Blue." In recent years, he performed with and then turned over the baton to his son, Charles Young, known as Chazz, who now lives in Las Vegas.. Manning is survived by another son, Frank Manning Jr. and a daughter Marion Price, as well as a half-brother, seven grandchildren and nine-great-grandchildren.

With two hip replacements slowing him down, Manning was nonetheless planning to celebrate his imminent 95th birthday at a special festival in New York City.The celebration will take place between May 21-25, including the premiere of a documentary, "Frankie Manning: Never Stop Swinging, on Channel 13 in NYC. It will be a fitting memorial.


Elaine Cancilla Orbach - 69

by Gregg Mayer

The sad news has come in on the death of Elaine Cancilla, the widow of Jerry Orbach. Elaine, who was 69, died of pneumonia. Her husband died in December, 2004.

A native of Pittsfield, Mass., she studied dance for ten years at the Community School there until, at 16, she went with her teacher to New York to audition for the School of American Ballet. Accepted with a full scholarship, she began classes at 17 and was placed in professional ballet class with Jacques D'Amboise, Melissa Hayden and Patricia McBride.

After seeing "West Side Story," she decided to work in musical theatre and appeared in her first Broadway musical, "Fiorello!" at 19. Going from there to "How To Succeed....," she would join other dancers to catch such Broadway shows as "Carnival!" - where her future husband Jerry Orbach was performing. Subsequent shows quickly follwed, including "Here's Love!" , "Flora, the Red Menace," "Baker Street" and "Sweet Charity." It was after this show that Elaine went into summer stock where she remained for eight years until receiving a call from Fosse, asking her to standby for Chita Rivera in the original company of "Chicago" on Broadway, where filled in for her as Verna Kelly.

It was there she met Orbach for the first time and after dating for almost a year, they married while both were performing on the national tour of Neil Simon's "Chapter Two." After they were married, Elaine left show business and devoted herself to her marriage, as well as joining her husband in supporting many charities.

Recently, she completed a memoir of their marriage, "Remember How I Love You: Ordinary Moments in an Extraordinary Marriage," with co-author Ken Bloom. It is due to be published this year by Simon & Schuster's Touchstone imprint.

Donations can be made to the Elaine and Jerry Orbach Musical Theatre Fellowship through the Theatre Hall of Fame or the Jerry Orbach Fund for Prostate Research at Sloan-Kettering Hospital.


Pearl Lang - 87

by Gregg Mayer

Pearl Lang, the internationally-esteemed dancer, choreographer and teacher, died at the end of February at the age of 87. Born in 1921, Lang was a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1942-52 and a guest artist with the company from 1954 through the late 1970;s, becoming the first woman to dance Graham's roles in seven pieces of the repertory.

As a Broadway dancer, she was featured in Carousel, Finian's Rainbow and Peer Gynt. In 1953, Lang founded her own company for which she choreographed 63 works, many of which were based on Jewish themes. She choreographed for film, opera and television, and with Alvin Ailey, she co-directed a school called American Dance Cneter on E.59 St., NYC.

A Chicago native, Lang was born Pearl Lack and changed her name for the stage. Studying at the University of Chicago, she was in a special program for the gifted, which she left in 1941 to work with Graham. Like her husband, the actor Joseph Wiseman, Lang had an interest in Jewish culture and history and often used the Jewish themes in her work, of which Shirah is one of the best known.

Many renowned dancers worked with her, especially several from the High School of Performing Arts circa 1950's, such as Eliot Feld, Bruce Marks and Nancy Stevens, who was chosen to be the Girl Child in Lang's signature piece at the time, "Rites." In this piece, she alternated the role with Cora Cahan; Bruce Marks was the Boy Child when they performed at its premiere at Jacob's Pillow in the early 1950's. Stevens, who went on to dance with both the Lang and Graham's companies, has since become a highly-regarded film-maker. When invited to film Pearl Lang teaching technique classes for the Graham archive, she was thrilled to get back to her dancing roots.

This is what Nancy Stevens has written at the end of her beautiful story written for Lang's service on March 1:

Things Pearl taught me:
Read poetry.
Don't be afriad of anything.
A contraction should break your heart.
When sewing on jersey, leave the stitches loose.


Carolyn George D'Amboise - 81

by Gregg Mayer

Carolyn George d'Amboise, the photographer and former ballet and Broadway dancer, died Tuesday at 81. Married to NYC Ballet star and National Dance Institute director, Jacques d'Amboise, she died at the couple's NYC home after a long struggle with primary lateral sclerosis, a rare neuromuscular disease.

Carolyn d'Amboise was a native of Dallas, and began her career in Broadway musicals in the late 1940's. Joining the San Francisco Ballet soon after, she then joined NYCB in 1952, where she met Jacques d'Amboise and married him on New Year's Day 1956.

Once she retired from dance, Carolyn d'Amboise worked as a dance photographer, as well as travelling around the world photographing people in non-dance-related situations and places. Her work was published in various books and magazines and she took many NYCB photos as well.

Jacques d'Amboise has said of his wife that she inspired him as a dancer. In fact two of their four children went on to dance with the NYCB: Christopher and Charlotte, both of whom have also performed on Broadway. Catherine lives in Santa Fe and George in Boulder, CO.


Pina Bausch, Genius, Innovator - 68

by Gregg Mayer

The extraordinarily gifted dancer, choreographer and director, Philippine "Pina" Bausch, has died of cancer, in Germany and it is impossible for me to get my head around it. Not only was she younger than I but I'd just seen her at BAM, as I always do, each time she comes to NYC. For years we have been championing her cause even when the rest of the world seemed late in catching up. Her reputation in Europe far surpassed it here and yet, there was always a full house of devotees at BAM each time!

Pina was born in 1940 and began dancing at the Folkwang Academy, famous for its direction by Kurt Jooss ("Green Table" in the Joffrey repertory,)and its Mary Wigman influences. When she won a scholarship to Juilliard in 1960, she studied with Anthony Tudor, Jose Limon and Paul Taylor. But she actually performed with Paul Sanasardo and Donya Feuer and even put in the requisite time with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company.

Upon her return to Germany in 1962, Bausch joined Jooss' new Folkwang Ballett Company as a soloist and assistant to the choreographer, before choreographing her first piece in 1968. The following year she succeeded Jooss as artistic director, which led to her moving on to artistic director of what was then Wuppertal Opera Ballet (and renamed the"Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch").

The Tanztheater style of dance included speech, exotic, eccentric and often over-the-top sets, costumes and premise. But in Bausch's hands, it was never over-stated or obvious. Her theatricality was unique, unmatched by any of her contemporaries, though similar in many wonderful ways to the American, Robert Wilson and the French-Canadian, Robert Lepage. Her work was funny, sad, moving, surprising, outrageous and always aesthetically and artistically impeccable. Her surreal take on life was appreciated by such different artists as Pedro Almodovar, in the movie "Talk to Her" and Federico Fellini, who cast her in the role of La Principessa L'herimia in his film, "The Ship Sails On."

Bausch was married to Rolf Borzik, a set and costume designer who pre-deceased her by almost thirty years. He had influenced the visual style of the Tanztheater from the very beginning and was a great financial support to the company until it began to receive its justified international recognition. They leave a son, Rolf.

Bausch studied at the Cunningham studio at one point during her NY-student days and I recall her from that period, but very vaguely; yet that face -recalling both Virginia Woolf and a Modigliani portrait - was hard to forget. When I think back on a few weeks ago - also at BAM- seeing Merce on his 90th birthday, getting his well-earned acclaim and honors, I can't imagine that any of us thought we'd never be seeing Pina's face again on that stage. Pina Bausch was awarded th Goethe Price of Frankfurt-am-Main in 2008 and her work will continue to be shown, one hopes,for many years to come. Her assistant, dancer Dominique Mercy - hopefully- will see to that.

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