Rosella Hightower

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Rosella Hightower (1961) Rosella Hightower (1961).jpg
Rosella Hightower (1961)

Rosella Hightower (January 10, 1920 – November 4, 2008) was an American ballerina who achieved fame in both the United States and Europe.



Rosella Hightower was born in Durwood, Carter County, Oklahoma, [1] the only child of Charles Edgar Hightower and his wife, the former Eula May Fanning. Of Choctaw heritage, she moved with her family to Kansas City, Missouri after her father took a new position with the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. Hightower began her dance training in Kansas City under the instruction of Dorothy Perkins. [2]

Carter County, Oklahoma county in Oklahoma

Carter County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 47,557. Its county seat is Ardmore. The county was named for Captain Ben W. Carter, a Cherokee who lived among the Chickasaw.

Choctaw Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States

The Choctaw are a Native American people originally occupying what is now the Southeastern United States. Their Choctaw language belongs to the Muskogean language family group. Hopewell and Mississippian cultures, who lived throughout the east of the Mississippi River valley and its tributaries. About 1,700 years ago, the Hopewell people built Nanih Waiya, a great earthwork mound located in what is central present-day Mississippi. It is still considered sacred by the Choctaw. The early Spanish explorers of the mid-16th century in the Southeast encountered Mississippian-culture villages and chiefs. The anthropologist John R. Swanton suggested that the Choctaw derived their name from an early leader. Henry Halbert, a historian, suggests that their name is derived from the Choctaw phrase Hacha hatak.

Kansas City, Missouri City in western Missouri

Kansas City is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city had an estimated population of 488,943 in 2017, making it the 37th most-populous city in the United States. It is the central city of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles the Kansas–Missouri state line. Kansas City was founded in the 1830s as a Missouri River port at its confluence with the Kansas River coming in from the west. On June 1, 1850 the town of Kansas was incorporated; shortly after came the establishment of the Kansas Territory. Confusion between the two ensued and the name Kansas City was assigned to distinguish them soon after.

After a 1937 appearance by Russian choreographer and ballet dancer Léonide Massine in Kansas City with Wassily de Basil's Ballets Russes, Massine invited Hightower to join a new ballet company he was forming in Monte Carlo. Hightower traveled to France at her own expense and discovered that she had been invited for further auditions and had been given no commitment of employment by the group. She was ultimately accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo where she was guided by Massine who recognized her hard work and ability to learn quickly. There she met André Eglevsky, her future partner at various dance companies. After the outbreak of World War II, Hightower followed the Ballet Russe to New York City, where she joined the Ballet Theater in 1941. [2]

Léonide Massine ballet dancer

Leonid Fyodorovich Myasin, better known in the West by the French transliteration as Léonide Massine, was a Russian choreographer and ballet dancer. Massine created the world's first symphonic ballet, Les Présages, and many others in the same vein. Besides his "symphonic ballets," Massine choreographed many other popular works during his long career, some of which were serious and dramatic, and others lighthearted and romantic. He created some of his most famous roles in his own comic works, among them the Can-Can Dancer in La Boutique fantasque (1919), the Hussar in Le Beau Danube (1924), and, perhaps best known of all, the Peruvian in Gaîté Parisienne (1938). Today his oeuvre is represented by his son Theodor Massine.

Wassily de Basil Russian ballet impresario

Wassily de Basil, usually referred to as Colonel W. de Basil, was a Russian ballet impresario.

The Original Ballet Russe was a ballet company established in 1931 by René Blum and Colonel Wassily de Basil as a successor to the Ballets Russes, founded in 1909 by Sergei Diaghilev. The company assumed the new name Original Ballet Russe after a split between de Basil and Blum. De Basil led the renamed company, while Blum and others founded a new company under the name Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo. It was a large scale professional ballet company which toured extensively in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the United States, and Central and South America. It closed down operations in 1947.

She joined the de Basil Ballet in 1946, which was performing under the name Original Ballet Russe. Hightower received acclaim from John Martin of The New York Times after a March 1947 performance of Giselle by the Original Ballet Russe at the Metropolitan Opera House. After Alicia Markova, who had been scheduled to dance the title role, became sick, Hightower was called in as her replacement, and learned the part she had never danced before in some five hours of rehearsal with dancer/choreographer Anton Dolin. Martin's review stated that the "Original Ballet Russe had planned no novelty for the opening of its season... but there was a major one on its program nevertheless. This was the unscheduled first appearance of Rosella Hightower in the title role of Giselle", calling it "a thoroughly admirable achievement, which brought an ovation from the audience". [3] Three days later, Martin's review of Swan Lake called Hightower "the newest star on the ballet horizon" after her two performances with Dolin and then André Eglevsky as her partner [4]

John Martin became America's first major dance critic in 1927. Focusing his efforts on propelling the modern dance movement, he greatly influenced the careers of dancers such as Martha Graham. Within his life he wrote several books on the modern dance and received numerous awards for his work.

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 125 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 17th in the world by circulation and 2nd in the U.S.

<i>Giselle</i> ballet

Giselle is a romantic ballet in two acts. It was first performed by the Ballet du Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris, France on 28 June 1841, with Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi as Giselle. The ballet was an unqualified triumph. Giselle became hugely popular and was staged at once across Europe, Russia, and the United States. The traditional choreography that has been passed down to the present day derives primarily from the revivals staged by Marius Petipa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg.

In 1947, she accepted an invitation from the Marquis George de Cuevas to join a new ballet company, which was variously called the Grand Ballet de Monte Carlo or the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, but was most commonly called the de Cuevas Ballet by theatergoers. The presence there of choreographer Bronislava Nijinska was one of the major factors in Hightower's decision. Nijinska choreographed for Hightower the "glitteringly virtuosic" Rondo Capriccioso. In addition to classic dances, Hightower's performances included Piège de Lumière by John Taras, the troupe's choreographer and balletmaster, in which she danced the role of a butterfly in a tropical forest who enchants a group of escaped convicts. [2]

George de Cuevas Chilean ballet choreographer

Jorge Cuevas Bartholín, known as George de Cuevas, was a Chilean-born ballet impresario and choreographer who was best known for the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas that he formed in 1944.

Bronislava Nijinska Russian ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer

Bronislava Nijinska ; was a Polish ballet dancer, and an innovative choreographer. She came of age in a family of professional dancers. Her career began in Saint Petersburg. Soon she joined Ballets Russes which ventured to success in Paris. She later met war-time difficulties in 'Petrograd' and in turbulent Kiev. In France again, public acclaim for her works came quickly, cresting in the 1920s. She then enjoyed continuing successes in Europe and the Americas.

John Taras was a prominent American ballet master and choreographer.

The company disbanded after the 1961 death of de Cuevas, and Hightower largely retired from the stage, though she gave a series of performances in 1962 with Sonia Arova, Erik Bruhn and Rudolf Nureyev. She opened the École supérieure de danse de Cannes in 1962 near her home in Cannes, which became one of Europe's leading ballet schools. Hightower later directed several major companies, including the Marseilles Ballet from 1969–72, the Ballet of the Grand Théâtre of Nancy in 1973–74, the Paris Opéra Ballet from 1980 to 1983 and the La Scala Ballet of Milan in 1985–86. She is honored in Tulsa, Oklahoma, along with four other Native American ballerinas (Yvonne Chouteau, Moscelyne Larkin, Maria Tallchief and Marjorie Tallchief), with a larger than life-size bronze statue, The Five Moons in the garden of the Tulsa Historical Society. [2]

Sonia Arova Bulgarian ballerina

Sonia Arova, was a Bulgarian ballerina.

Erik Bruhn Danish ballet dancer

Erik Belton Evers Bruhn was a Danish danseur, choreographer, artistic director, actor, and author.

Rudolf Nureyev Soviet ballet dancer and choreographer

Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev was a Soviet ballet and contemporary dancer and choreographer. Named Lord of the Dance, Nureyev is widely regarded as the greatest male ballet dancer of his generation.


She was found dead in her home in Cannes, France on November 4, 2008, aged 88, having died either earlier that morning or late the previous night. She had suffered a series of strokes. [2] Hightower was briefly married to dancer Mischa Resnikov in 1938. She married Jean Robier, a French artist and designer, in 1952; They had one daughter, dancer Dominique Monet Robier (b. 1955). [2]

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  1. Short, Candy Franklin. Hightower, Rosella (1920–). Archived November 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine .Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. 2009 (retrieved Feb 9, 2009)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Anderson, Jack. "Rosella Hightower, Prima Ballerina and School Founder, Is Dead at 88", The New York Times , November 4, 2008. Accessed November 5, 2008.
  3. Martin, John. "Rosella Hightower Scores in Giselle Role, Replacing Markova, as Ballet Russe Opens", The New York Times , March 21, 1947. Accessed November 5, 2008.
  4. Martin, John. "THE BALLET RUSSE AT METROPOLITAN; Rosella Hightower Seen Twice in 'Swan Lake" – Monte Carlo Troupe at City Center", The New York Times , March 24, 1947. Accessed November 5, 2008.