Death of a dancer: Lawrence Rhodes

Lawrence Rhodes, Brunilda Ruiz in “Time Out of Mind” – Harkness Ballet 1965 Michael Avedon photo courtesy Finis Jhung

I first saw Lawrence Rhodes (1939-2019) dance with the Pennsylvania Ballet. Growing up in Pittsburgh, the company was a point of pride. The below photo is very much how I remember Rhodes’s dancing. His elegance, power, and classical grace was emblematic of a force that ballet brought to my young life. It was almost a motor that I transferred into myself through watching. The rapture I felt in seeing a dancer like this was so enormous. That feeling revisits me only occasionally anymore …

It all begins in class and Rhodes had it going on there too, in the profound photo below.

Lawrence Rhodes at right: This picture is worth 1,000 words.

As a dancer, his vitae hearkens the great ballet-boom era in our country — when so many companies flourished and America had a foothold on an educated ballet audience. Rhodes performed with the Joffrey, then famously with the Harkness and Pennsylvania ballets. He and his wife Lone Isaksen danced with the Dutch National Ballet. Other names: Eliot Feld Ballet — would that that marvelous company would revive — also, Dennis Wayne’s Dancers, and the Milwaukee Ballet., He became a major American ballet pedagogue teaching at NYU, and in his last distinguished position, as head of the Dance Division of the Juilliard School.

By any measure, a giant of American ballet is felled by death. A more complete obituary is published in POINTE Magazine.

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