On April 24, 1903, one of the founders of American modern dance was born to parents who emigrated from Russia. Helen Tamiris, originally Helen Becker, grew up in New York, New York on the Lower East Side. In her lifetime, she danced, choreographed, and helped initiate modern dance. Later in her life, she moved to the "Great White Way," otherwise known as Broadway, to choreograph many shows.
In 1911, or at the age of eight, Ms. Tamiris began studying dance at the Henry Street Settlement with Irene Lewisohn. After that she studied with the children's chorus at the Metropolitan Opera Company, where she learned Italian ballet techniques. Although she studied strict ballet techniques, she began to study modern dance at the Neighborhood Playhouse. She also studied natural dancing but soon grew restless of it; thus, she quickly left the studios to develop her own sort of dance.
Tamiris spent a few years making minor nightclub appearances and dancing in stage shows at movie theaters. But in 1922, she left America to tour in South Africa with the Bracale Opera Company, where she was exposed to international dance forms. When she returned to America, she abandoned her former Italian ballet training and studied Russian ballet technique. She appeared dancing in a few shows but soon realized she just was not getting what she wanted. Tamiris took the next year off to develop her own style of concert dancing.
On October 9, 1927, Tamiris made her concert debut in New York City at the Little Theatre. She performed solos, including Florentine, Portrait of a Lady, Impressions of the Bullring, and Circus Sketches. From 1927 to 1944, Tamiris's concert career persevered. During this time, she choreographed many works for herself and others, such as Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and members of the New Dance League and Group. Tamiris choreographed works that were forceful and vivacious to express her belief that life was a conflict.
Between 1928 and 1941, Helen Tamiris...
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