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The Biography of Agnes de Mille

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Agnes de Mille was born September 18,1905 in New York City into a family of theater professionals. Agnes” father William C. DeMille and her uncle Cecil B. DeMille were both Hollywood directors and her grandfather was an author of many playwright’s, the arts was definitely a career choice driven through the family. With a love for acting and originally wanting to be an actress, DeMille was told that she was “not pretty enough”, so she turned her attention to dance, to not perceive her looks so much.Though at the time dancing was more of a hobby than a career and her parent refused to allow her to dance.

After de Mille’s younger sister was prescribed ballet classes to cure her flat feet, DeMille joined alongside her. De Mille lacked flexibility and technique, and did not have a dancer’s body. Which is genuinely perceived as a sleek tone body, the skinnier the better. Self-teaching from watching film stars on the set with her father in Hollywood Soon became her key; through visualization she was able to adapt and learn, and while it was the most interesting for her to watch than perfectly turned out legs, and she developed strong character work and compelling performances. No longer needing the validation of a dance teacher

De Mille graduated from UCLA with a degree in English where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and in 1933 moved to London to study with Dame Marie Rambert, eventually joining Rambert’s company, and Antony Tudor’s London Ballet. She began her association with the American Ballet Theatre In 1939, but her first significant work was the Rodeo (1942) with the score by Aaron Copland, was staged for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. On the success of Rodeo, de Mille was hired to choreograph the musical show Oklahoma! De Mille went on to choreograph over a dozen other musicals, most notably Bloomer Girl (1944), Carousel (1945), Brigadoon (1947); which she was co-recipient of the inaugural Tony Award for Best Choreography, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Paint Your Wagon (1951), The Girl in Pink Tights (1954), Goldilocks (1957), and 110 in the Shade (1963).

De Mille’s success on Broadway did not translate into success in Hollywood, theatre and television are quite different, from dialect to the movement. Her only significant film credit is Oklahoma! Sadly she was not invited to recreate her choreography for either Brigadoon (1954) or Carousel (1956).Though, her two specials for the Omnibus TV series entitled “The Art of Ballet” and “The Art of Choreography”, both televised in 1956, were immediately recognized as small attempts to bring serious dance to the attention of a broad public. During his presidency, John F. Kennedy appointed de Mille as a member of the National Advisory Committee on the Arts, the predecessor to the National Endowment for the Arts, of which she was also appointed to by president L.B. Johnson after its activation. Agnes not only was able to prove herself as a dancer but as an activist as well.

Lastly In 1973, de Mille founded the Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre, which she later revived as Heritage Dance Theatre. With her own theatre she was able to help and display brilliant dancers. De Mille married Walter Prude on June 14, 1943. They had one child, Jonathan, born in 1946, who continues to hold a legacy such as an inductee into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1973. De Mille’s has many other awards including the Tony Award for Best Choreography (1947, for Brigadoon)( one of her greatest success’), the Handel Medallion for achievement in the arts, an honor from the Kennedy Center, an Emmy for her work in The Indomitable de Mille, Drama Desk Special Award and, in 1986, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. De Mille also has received seven honorary degrees from various colleges and universities. Agnes has inspired future dancers for generations and continues to with her legacy. “To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking” – Agnes DeMille. She still inspires today though quotes such like the one just stated.

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