Angela Bowen (1936-2018) was a dancer and teacher, as well
as a prominent LGBT activist. She served on the board of the National Coalition
of Black Lesbians and Gays.
She started dancing at
the age of 14 and later co-founded the Bowen/Peters School of Dance in New
Haven, Connecticut. She came out as lesbian late in life, but always spoke out
against homophobia, racism and sexism. She is the subject of the 2016 documentary The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen.
de Valois (1898-2001) was a dancer, choreographer
and director of classical ballet. She is known as the ‘godmother’ of English
and Irish ballet.
She started dancing from an early age, and
in 1927 established her own Academy of Choreographic Art in London. She went on
to establish the Royal Ballet, one of the most important companies of its kind
in the 20th century.
Hinkson (1925-2014) was a dancer and choreographer,
best known for her collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance Company. She was
credited with breaking racial boundaries in ballet and modern dance.
She obtained formal training at the
University of Wisconsin and was recruited into Martha Graham’s company in 1951.
Two years later, she obtained the role of principal dancer in the production Bluebeard’s Castle. She was also a
teacher with the Juilliard School of Music and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Rubinstein (1883-1960) was a Russian dancer, and an important figure of the Belle
Époque. She was highly influential in the art and eventually formed her own
She debuted in 1908, and was part of the Ballets Russes for a few years.
She formed her own company in 1911 and used her wealth to become a patron of
the arts. In 1934, she was awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government,
followed by the Grand Cross of the Légion – its highest honour – in 1939.
Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) was one
of the most successful dancers of the 20th century. She is known as ‘the
queen mother of black dance’.
She studied anthropology at the
University of Chicago, focusing on dances of the African diaspora. She started
her own dance company, Ballets
Nègres, in 1931, one of the very first black ballet companies in the
United States. She opened her own school of dance in 1945, which later evolved
into the Katherine Dunham School of Arts.
Martha Graham (1894-1991) was a dancer and choreographer whose techniques shaped modern dance. She was the first dancer to perform at the White House and served as a cultural ambassador for the United States.
Driven by the desire to make dance an art form, she established the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in 1926. Her pioneering techniques are still taught and used widely today. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976.