Leon DanielianTuesday, March 5, 2019
Leon Danielian (31 October 1920 – 8 March 1997) was an American ballet dancer, teacher, choreographer, and educator. As guest artist with ballet companies around the world, he became one of the first American male dancers to achieve international recognition.
As a child, he took private ballet classes with Madame Seda Suny, a well-known Armenian dance teacher, and later continued his studies under Mikhail Mordkin, Michel Fokine, Igor Schwezoff, and Vecheslav Swoboda. He made his debut with the Mordkin Ballet in 1937, became a charter member of Ballet Theatre in 1939, and appeared, briefly, with Colonel Wassily de Basil's Original Ballet Russe in 1941. He also danced in Broadway musicals during these early years. In 1943 he joined Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a soloist and remained with that company until 1961, having become a premier danseur with an unusually wide repertory. Admired for his classical technique as well as his gift for comedy, he made many guest appearances with other companies, among them Les Ballets de Champs-Élysées, as partner to Yvette Chauviré, and San Francisco Ballet, which toured internationally
In his late thirties, debilitated by arthritis, Danielian gave up performing and devoted himself to teaching. He taught technique classes, men's classes, and partnering classes at the Ballet Russe School in New York in the early 1960s, and from 1968 to 1980 he was director of American Ballet Theatre School. There he not only taught classes but was an effective leader of the faculty and administrator of the school. In 1982 he became director of the dance program at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was named a professor of fine arts. Although he had never graduated from high school, he prizes learning and was well versed in art, theater, and dance history. He thus fit very well in a university setting. Although he suffered from the effects of a hip replacement, a heart operation, and a stroke in his later years, he continued teaching until his retirement in 1991. A dance studio at the university is named in his honor.