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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?TH-07977">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Agnes de Mille (1905–1993)

Author of Dance to the Piper

Includes the names: Anes De Mille, Agnes De Mille

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Agnes de Mille (or DeMille) was born to a theatrical family in New York City. Her father William de Mille was a playwright and film producer. His brother was Cecil B. DeMille, who became a famous movie director. The family moved to Hollywood when she was a child. In her teens, Agnes saw performances of Anna Pavlova and the Ballets Russes with Vaslav Nijinsky, as well as American dance pioneers Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis. She enrolled in ballet classes in Hollywood, and also attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), from which she graduated with honors at age 19. Her mother supported her desire for a dance career and took her New York City, where she performed with the Grand Street Follies and studied modern dance with Martha Graham. In 1932, she went to Europe and performed recitals of her work in London, Paris, and Copenhagen. Marie Rambert invited her to join the Ballet Club in London, where she worked with Frederick Ashton and Anthony Tudor. With the outbreak of World War II, she returned to live in New York permanently. In 1940, for the first season of Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre), of which she was a charter member, she choreographed "Black Ritual" to Darius Milhaud's Creation du Monde. Her big breakthrough as a choreographer came in 1942 with her ballet "Rodeo" with an original score by Aaron Copland. It's still one of her best-known ballets, along with "Fall River Legend" (1948). She went on to have a successful and pioneering career as a choreographer of Broadway musicals, making the dance an integral part of the story. She also wrote numerous books, including memoirs and an autobiography, And Promenade Home (1958). She was known as a tireless advocate and spokesperson for dance and for federal support for the arts.
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