Lucia Chase in Michel Fokine's Les Sylphides Lucia Chase in Michel Fokine's Les Sylphides, with American Ballet Theatre, 1940. Chase's interest in dramatic narrative ballets, nourished by her original teachers, including Michael Mordkin and Fokine, laid a foundation for American Ballet Theatre that continues today. (Photograph by Maurice Seymour. Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.)


A driving force behind American Ballet Theatre during the first four decades of its existence, Lucia Chase (1907-1986) was born to a wealthy family in Waterbury, Connecticut. She studied ballet with Mikhail Mordkin and in the late 1930s danced leading roles with his company. She was a founding member of Ballet Theatre, and proved her mettle as a dramatic dancer in works by Antony Tudor, Agnes de Mille, and Michel Fokine. In 1945, with designer Oliver Smith, she was named co-director, a position she held until 1980, when she stepped down. Responsible for programming as well as casting, she pursued with remarkable success the vision of Ballet Theatre as a showcase for classical and contemporary works, international in scope and national in spirit. By the last decade of her tenure, the company had become an outstanding classical ensemble, with an acclaimed roster of principals. During her forty-year association with the company, Chase contributed generously from her private fortune to its maintenance and survival. In 1980 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Lucia Chase in Capriccioso Lucia Chase in Capriccioso, with American Ballet Theatre, 1940. As a performer, Chase was known not for her classical technique but for her dramatic presence and sparkling humor. She continued appearing in mime roles after retiring from dancing in 1960. (Photograph by Maurice Seymour. Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.)



Learn more in Lucia Chase, an essay by Dawn Lille.










Bravura! by Alex Ewing Lucia Chase in Antony Tudor's Dark Elegies graces the cover of Bravura: Lucia Chase and American Ballet Theatre, a biography by Chase's son, Alex Ewing.