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Dance in America: Lar Lubovitch's "Othello" from San Francisco Ballet banner
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Lar Lubovitch

Birth: April 9, 1943
Nationality: American
Occupation: dancer, choreographer, company director

One of modern dance's most eclectic emissaries, Lar Lubovitch has created dances in a variety of arenas, earning both kudos and criticism for his work. Choreographing prolifically for his own company and others since 1968, Lubovitch has gained a reputation for a free-flowing, music-driven style that has made his work popular with audiences and has polarized critics. He has produced more than 50 dances for his New York-based Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, which celebrated its 30th anniversary season in 1998. In addition, almost since the outset of his career, Lubovitch has created dances for other companies, often ballet companies seeking to update their repertories. His works have been performed by the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, and others.

Since the mid-1980s, Lubovitch has further diversified, creating ice dances for Olympic champion skaters and providing choreography for Broadway musicals. He received a Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut in 1987 with the musical staging of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine show "Into the Woods." And in 1994, his ballet for the short-lived Broadway musical version of "The Red Shoes" was judged the only redeemable part of that show. The 18-minute ballet survives in the repertory of American Ballet Theatre.

"The popularity of Lubovitch's choreography -- as well as much criticism of it -- stems from its easy accessibility," wrote Gus Solomons Jr. in a 1995 DANCE MAGAZINE review. "It is feel-good, gracious, and unabashedly entertaining dancing, but it sometimes lacks the emotionally nutritional substance of a completely balanced artistic meal." Yet, in what has developed into a long-running print debate between New York critics, others differ. John Gruen, an ardent advocate, wrote in the February 1990 DANCE MAGAZINE that Lubovitch "continues to be among the world's most musical makers of dance, investing his work with a compelling Iyricism and an almost breathless attempt to make every last ... musical nuance inhabit his movements."

Lubovitch was born in Chicago in 1943, the second of four children. His father, the son of Russian immigrants, ran a small department store. As a boy, Lubovitch danced for fun and occasionally invented dances for makeshift shows he put on with his siblings. "I choreographed not knowing I was choreographing," he told Norma McLain Stoop for a 1972 DANCE MAGAZINE profile. "I had no steps, no vocabulary, but it had great meaning to me -- these shiftings of bodies through space."

Lubovitch had already taken some courses at the Art Institute of Chicago when he enrolled at the University of Iowa as an art major. But as a freshman in 1960 he attended a campus performance of the José Limón Dance Company -- the first professional dance he had seen -- and was immediately won over. The following summer he enrolled in dance classes at Connecticut College in New London, where his instructors included Limón and Alvin Ailey. From there he entered the Juilliard School in New York on full scholarship. His teachers included Louis Horst, Lucas Hoving, Anna Sokolow and Antony Tudor. While at Juilliard he began sporadically dancing with troupes headed by Pearl Lang, Donald McKayle, John Butler, Glen Tetley, and with the Manhattan Festival Ballet.

"I came to dancing very late," Lubovitch says in Gruen's 1988 book, PEOPLE WHO DANCE. "But I had a ferocious determination to achieve certain abilities that the dancers around me already possessed." After Juilliard he studied at the Martha Graham School and the Joffrey Ballet school, supporting himself with carpentry work and a night job as a go-go dancer at a Greenwich Village nightclub. In the mid-1960s he joined the Harkness Ballet, where he danced for two years. It was there that his desire to be a choreographer jelled.


Top banner photos: Desmond Richardson as Othello; the leads Desmond Richardson and Yuan Yuan Tan, who dances the role of Desdemona.

Yuan Yuan Tan, Gonzalo Garcia, Desmond Richardson, and Parrish Maynard

Iago (Parrish Maynard) sows the seed of jealousy in the mind of Othello (Desmond Richardson).

Katita Waldo as Emilia

Katita Waldo as Emilia, Desdemona's lady-in-waiting and Iago's wife.

CITY CENTER JOFFREY BALLET becomes the first DANCE IN AMERICA program to be broadcast on the series in 1976.
Celebrating 30 Years of Great Performances