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Lew Christensen and Gisella Caccialanza Papers
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Lew Christensen was born in Brigham City, Utah on May 9, 1909. He a was dancer, choreographer, teacher and ballet director. Christensen was married to Gisella Caccialanza. Gisella was born in San Diego, California on September 17, 1914. She studied dance with Enrico Cecchetti at La Scala, Milan, Italy and at the School of the American Ballet. Christensen appeared in vaudeville with his brothers Harold and Willam, In 1935 he became a member of the American Ballet with which he danced the title roles In "Orpheus" and "Apollo". He worked with the Ballet Caravan (1936-1940) and the Dance Players (1941-1942). After war service he joined the Ballet Society (1946-1948). He also worked with the New York City Ballet. In 1951 he became the director and principal choeographer for the San Francisco Ballet, a position he held until his death in 1984. The Christensen/Caccialanza Papers includes correspondence, libretti, clippings, photographs, negatives, programs, brochures, flyers, souvenir books, scrapbooks, audiotapes, and transcripts. Also included in the collection are two pairs of dance slippers. The collection has been arranged as follows: SERIES I. Correspondence; SERIES II. Christensen Background; SERIES III. Caccialanza Background; SERIES IV. Manuscripts, Letters, Etc.; SERIES V: Articles; SERIES VI. Miscellaneous; SERIES VII. Programs, flyers, etc.; SERIES VIII. Photographs; SERIES IX. Interviews by Debra H. Sowell; SERIES X. Scrapbooks; and SERIES XI. Dance slippers.
Lew Christensen was born in Brigham City, Utah on May 9, 1909. Introduced to dance at a very young age, Lew studied dance with his uncle Peter Christensen, Stefano Mascagno, and L. Albertieri. While he was still in his teens, Christensen launched his professional dance career on the vaudeville circuit with his brother Willam, and later Harold (1927-1935). In 1934, while performing in the production The Great Waltz in New York, Lew began taking class at Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine's newly established School of American Ballet. In 1935, Lew joined the Metropolitan Opera's American Ballet where George Balanchine was ballet master. In his two years with American Ballet, Lew was hailed as America's first native premier danseur for his performance in George Balanchine's Orpheus and Eurydice (1936) and Apollon Musegéte (1937). He was also a founding company member of Ballet Caravan (1936-1940), a touring company founded by Lincoln Kirstein. For Ballet Caravan, Christensen choreographed his popular ballet, Filling Station (1938), Charade (1939) and Pastorela (1941). These ballets and Jinx (1942), choreographed for Eugene Loring's Dance Players (1941-1942), established Christensen as one of the nation's leading choreographers. Lew's works were also featured heavily in the company South American Tour in 1941. Lew's dance career was interrupted by World War II when he was drafted to serve in the United States Army. Upon his return to the United States, he became ballet master for Ballet Society (1946), formed by Balanchine and Kirstein. Ballet Society became known as New York City Ballet in 1948. During this period, Christensen danced lead roles in many of Balanchine's works. Lew was named associate director of San Francisco Ballet in 1949, a job he continued through 1950. In 1951, Lew became co-director of San Francisco Ballet with brother Willam, and became director shortly thereafter when Willam returned to Salt Lake City to establish a ballet program at the University of Utah. For San Francisco Ballet, Lew choreographed numerous ballets. As an artistic director, Christensen provided San Francisco Ballet with an impressive Balanchine repertory, its first television broadcasts, full-length productions of Nutcracker and his story ballet Beauty and the Beast (1968), as well as its first national and international exposure including tours to the Far East (1957), New York City (1965) and Edinburgh (1981). His works have been presented by numerous dance companies in the United States and abroad. During the 50th Anniversary Gala on January 29, 1983, Christensen was awarded the first Lew Christensen Medal for his extraordinary service to the San Francisco Ballet Association, starting a tradition which continues to present day. In April 1984, the Christensen brothers received the Capezio Dance Award at a special ceremony in New York City. Other honors include: an appointment as a charter commissioner of the California Arts Council (1964); the Dance Magazine Award (1973); the bronze medal for choreography at the First International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi (1979); and an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California (1982). Lew suddenly died in his home on October 9, 1984.
19 Boxes
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