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Gemze de Lappe
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Dancer
    (February 28, 1922-November 11, 2017)
    Born in Portsmouth, Virginia
    Gemze Mary de Lappe
    Student of Agnes De Mille
    Frequent dance partner of De Mille favorite, James Mitchell
    Performed in Broadway productions of 'Oklahoma!' (1943), 'Dream Ballet' (1947), 'Paint Your Wagon' (1951 - 52), 'The King and I' (1951 - 54), and 'Juno' (1959)
    Appeared in the film version of 'The King & I' (1956)
    Worked with the American Dance Machine, the American Ballet Theatre and the Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre
    Famous for restaging the musicals 'Oklahoma,' 'Carousel,' 'Brigadoon,' and 'The King and I' with the choreography in its original form as conceived by De Mille
    Her first name sounds like the name of a Northeastern biotech company.
    When asked about her unusual first name, she answered: 'I have a fey Irish mother and she just gave it to me — concocted it.'
    At the age of twenty-one, her first Broadway credit was playing 'child in pigtails' in the cast of 'Oklahoma!'
    She actually danced the role of the fearsome masked 'King Simon of Legree' in the original 'Small House of Uncle Thomas' number for the 'King and I.'
    She was overshadowed by her famous mentor and gained less notice for her original choreography than she did for restaging that mentor's work for later audiences.
    She liked to tell her students: 'When you look at a man’s eyes, you must fall in love with this guy right away. If that doesn’t happen, the dance doesn’t quite fulfill itself.'
    She studied ballet at the age of nine.
    She trained under both Michel Fokine and Isadora Duncan's foster daughter, Irma.
    The New York Times eulogized her as 'the Keeper of the Agnes de Mille Flame.'
    She taught dance classes at Smith College for several years.
    Agnes de Mille staged her 30-minute 'Rose for Miss Emily' ballet with her specifically in mind.
    She remained lifelong friends with Agnes De Mille, working closely with her until her death in 1993.
    She won a Donaldson Award for Best Female Dancer for her work in 'Paint Your Wagon.'
    She was awarded her an honorary doctorate by Niagara University (1989).
    She was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre (2007).
    She received the Martha Hill Dance Fund Lifetime Achievement Award (2012).
    She left the cast of 'The King and I' when the musical was still a hit, in order to dance in the less ambitious gold rush musical, 'Paint Your Wagon.'
    She remained vigorous and spry into her eighties, continuing to coach younger generations of dancers (although two angioplasties and a knee injury after slipping on ice did threaten to slow her down).

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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