CriticalDance Forum

Alan Howard dies
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Author:  djb [ Fri Mar 14, 2003 12:17 am ]
Post subject:  Alan Howard dies

I got the sad news today that Alan Howard died three days ago. He had been in a hospital in New York City, but recently returned to his apartment so he could be at home when he went. He was 72.

He rose through the ranks of the the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, eventually reaching the rank of premier danseur. In her book The American Ballet (1959), Olga Maynard wrote:

"The American premier in the Company is Alan Howard, born and trained in the United States, and one of the youngest premiers danseurs.... Howard has not once been seen to falter in a lift, wobble in a turn, or ruffle the skirt of his partner.... Howard’s partnering demeanor is of the courteous deportment in the great danseur noble style.... Howard has given Herculean support to his company from an early stage of his career. In a recent season, when the danseur ranks were decimated by illness and accident, Howard danced seven male roles in one day, between matinée and evening performance. A brilliant technician, he has creditably disciplined his virtuoso flair for characterization. He studies drama as well as dance for more scope in ballet....[H]e has an elegance of physique and the serious mien suited to classic roles. In the danse caractère...his King of the Dandies in Le Beau Danube is now a tradition on tour. His potential is boundless, given the right direction. A student of the great Fedorova, he has a fine sense of theatre and is intent on perfection of form and clarity of communication."

I wish I could include the photo of him from this book. He’s in a grand jeté, with a beautiful line. He was unusual for an American dancer of his generation, in that he studied ballet from a young age (in Chicago), consistently and with good teachers, so his line and use of his feet were very refined.

I knew him as a teacher in San Francisco. He owned the beautiful Academy of Ballet on Market Street for many years. Although I only studied with him for about a year, and subsequently when I was home on vacations from college, I learned a lot from him about presentation and performance. He had a tremendous collection of 19th-century lithographs and photographs of famous dancers from "the old days," many of which were on the walls of his studio. He always encouraged his students to study the pictures of famous dancers, to stand in front of mirror and try to imitate their line, their look, their majesty. One of the best exercises he gave in class was a very difficult one for students: one by one, accompanied by some regal music, we had to walk across the very long diagonal of the studio, and fill up the entire distance with one first port de bras, trying to command the attention of an imaginary audience for the entire distance. It sometimes felt more grueling than physically demanding combinations.

He and my mother were good friends, so I knew him somewhat better than my limited exposure through classes would indicate. I always loved his sense of humor and joie de vivre. He had an unfading love and enthusiasm for ballet that was as strong when I last saw him, within the last year, as it was when he was teaching in the ’60s, and probably when he was a boy, taking classes.

My mother talked to Carolyn Goto, who danced in Mr. Howard’s Pacific Ballet, among other places, and she says a memorial gathering is being planned. I will post the information here when I get it, or perhaps someone else who’s in on the planning will.

(Mr. Howard had a long teaching career in Europe after he sold the Academy of Ballet, but I don’t know the details; maybe someone else will provide them.)

<small>[ 14 March 2003, 01:29 PM: Message edited by: djb ]</small>

Author:  librarian [ Fri Mar 14, 2003 7:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

I know that Mr. Howard taught a great deal in Germany. He lived in a lovely apartment near Chinatown if I remember correctly, surrounded by beautiful porcelains and lithographs of ballet. He was a real American star.

Author:  Lucy [ Fri Mar 14, 2003 11:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

How sorry I am to hear this. I never studied with him but I know of many who did. He had the most gorgeous dance studio that I had ever been in. Every touring ballet company that came to SF would use his studios. My one big memory was as a little child after an auditon I was brought to sit in his office. It was so glamerous. He had a big chandelier an loads of photos of dancers. He seemed larger than life to me.

I hope that you will share more memories with us djb.

Author:  djb [ Fri Mar 14, 2003 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

I already wrote about one of my fond memories of Alan Howard in another thread. This concerns the Academy of Ballet:

The owner of the studio at the time I studied there decided to tear down the wall between the small studio and his office, to make a larger studio. He asked a couple of us students to help him, before class. He gave us sledgehammers, and we got to whack away at the wall. (I don't know whether he'd inspected the structure first, but fortunately the ceiling didn't collapse.) I had never felt so warmed up and energized before a class.
I loved some of his comments to students in class. I don't know how they were taken by the people at whom they were directed, but they were sometimes so funny, I couldn't imagine anyone taking offense. Once we were working on grands jetes en tournant, trying to get a sharper switch of the legs in the air. He was following one girl the entire length of the diagonal, calling out suggestions. When she finished, he looked exasperated and said, "No, that looked like a great, rolling wiener!" I loved that image.

Author:  Gina Ness [ Mon Mar 17, 2003 2:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

I absolutely adored Alan Howard. I danced with his Pacific Ballet for several seasons. He was a very important teacher in San Francisco who trained several generations of dancers. His classes were very difficult and always went a half hour to forty minutes overtime. We didn't do one or two petite allegros...we did four or five. He was completely dedicated to his art. He was charming, witty, and had a great sense of humor. He was a wonderful dancer. I always thought of him as the Bujones of his day. He had technical abilities and a purity of line that were far ahead of his time during the height of his career. He was one of my most important teachers, and I will always be grateful to him.

Author:  djb [ Mon Mar 17, 2003 1:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

GN, I think the comparison to Bujones is a good one. And that sort of technique was very unusual in his day. I remember one day in class when he got up to demonstrate grand jete en tournant, completely un-warmed up, and just flew around the studio, with those beautifully pointed feet and quicksilver legs.

Did you ever dance with him, as in partnering? I only ever saw him dance with Sally Streets, so I was wondering whether he did dance with other members of the company.

Author:  mehunt [ Mon Mar 17, 2003 10:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

Richard Gibson, who now directs the Academy of Ballet with Zory Karah, tells me that Alan Howard went to Hanover, Germany, upon leaving SF. He taught there until he retired apparently.

For those with fond recollections of the Academy, I can report that it is still a beautiful old studio -- one of the nicest in the city, I think -- and though the old pictures of Pavlova and Nijinsky are gone now, the feeling of history remains.

Please do let us know when the memorial service is planned for. I'll pass that info on to the Academy.

Author:  Gina Ness [ Tue Mar 18, 2003 1:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

Alan usually danced with Sally Streets during my time with Pacific Ballet (1968 and 1970-1972). For those who read these posts who might not know, Sally danced with New York City Ballet before her later career with Pacific Ballet. Her daughter is NYCB's Kyra Nichols...Yes, Alan was largely responsible for training Kyra before she left for New York. I remember dancing once with Alan in his Waltz of the Flowers.

Author:  mehunt [ Mon Mar 31, 2003 12:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

An obituary appeared in the NY TImes yesterday:
March 30, 2003

Alan Howard, Dancer and Teacher, Dies at 72

Alan Howard, a lead dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and a ballet teacher, died on March 6 in Chicago. He was 72.

Author:  lahhtims [ Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

A few years late but better later than ever:

My love of ballet comes from a very direct connection: My mother was Alan Howard's sister and I remember family dinners at the Isaacson's (his real last name) and if Alan was there, he was sure to show off a bit. I got taken to the Ballet Russe when in town when a very young boy, being taken backstage by my mother to see him, and always being amazed by just how little clothing the girls wore backstage. I deeply regret not flying up to Chicago when he returned to die but my Aunt Margaret, his sister, was able to talk about him. I think she may have been the one who knew how important it was to protect and save his incredible collection of dance memorabilia.

I've got a gorgeous 8X10 press photo of him in profile dancing with Nina Novak in "Carnaval" as "Harlequin". I'm meeting Mary Margaret Holt at the University of Oklahoma Department of Dance next week so it can be professionally photocopied and then included in their "Ballet Russe" collection.

Author:  lahhtims [ Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

Alan Howard, 72, one of the best-known danseurs of Sergei Denham's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo

Ballet company formed in Monte Carlo in 1932. The name derived from Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, which dissolved after his death in 1929. Under René Blum and Col. W. , died in Chicago March 6, 2003, after a battle with cancer.

Howard, who received his early training with Edna McRae, joined the Ballet Russe at 19 and quickly won recognition for his brilliant technique and elegant line. As one of the Ballet Russe's virtuoso danseurs, he performed with many of the company's great stars, notably Nina Novak, in Leonide Massine's dramatic ballets as well as the great Petipa classics. He was equally at home with New York City Howard was known as a demanding, acerbic, but highly regarded master teacher, training several generations of dancers at the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco. Pacific Ballet, the regional company he founded in San Francisco, became a breeding ground for such rising young stars as Kyra Nichols and Gina Ness.

During the 1970s Howard taught at the Berlin Opera Ballet and later the National University in Hannover. He continued to stage works for companies in Europe and Iceland until his retirement in the 1990s.

Howard is survived by his niece, Patricia Bostwick.

End of Obit,

Very wrong about survivors: His sisters Elaine and Margaret were still well alive at his death. My mom, Elaine was a very troubled person and I'm not certain how he felt about Aunt Margaret when alive but he did return to Chicago and to the best of my personal knowledge, they were in touch.

Author:  Gina Ness [ Mon Jan 27, 2014 2:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alan Howard dies

Hello, lahhtims, and welcome to CriticalDance! How wonderful to learn more details regarding your uncle Alan Howard! He is still revered in the Bay Area by those who knew him and studied with him. Those former dancers, like me, are teaching the next generations of dancers sharing the knowledge passed down to them by such an amazing teacher as Alan. Just recently, one of his last very special students in Texas, who was a dancer for Smuin Ballet, shared a wonderful photo of Alan with me. She adored him, as did I... He is remembered as a legendary teacher in San Francisco!!! I really would love to see the photo of Alan in Carnival with Nina Novak! If possible, it would be wonderful to share with us! As I mentioned in previous posts here, he was a dancer ahead of his time... the Fernando Bujones of his generation! He lived and breathed his art. I will always think of him with great reverence and respect...

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