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Walter Raines (1940 - August 28, 1994)

Walter Raines, dancer and teacher, was a charter member of the Dance Theater of Harlem and artistic director of its school. He died on August 28, 1994, at his home in Manhattan. He was 54.

The cause was AIDS, said Jeffrey Hankinson, his cousin.

Mr. Raines was a classical ballet dancer of an elegance so unyielding that he could stand on his hands for two minutes, or so it seemed in Arthur Mitchell's "Biosfera," without losing his distinguished look. But Mr. Raines also choreographed, taught ballet at several universities as well as at Dance Theater of Harlem, staged rock acts and Off Broadway plays and was even responsible for the art direction and costumes for the film "The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy" (1980). 'A Man of the Theater'

"I've been warned against being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none," Mr. Raines said in a 1977 interview, "but when I die I'd just like to be called 'a man of the theater."

Mr. Raines was born in Braddock, Pa., and trained in dance at the Pittsburgh Playhouse School of Theater and Dance and the New York City Ballet-affiliated School of American Ballet. He was also a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University. In addition to his career with the Harlem company, where he danced from 1968 to 1978, Mr. Raines performed with the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany and the Pennsylvania Ballet.

He was an associate professor at City College of New York from 1978 to 1989 and headed several programs at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in the 1980's. He was also a guest teacher in Germany at the Tanz-Forum der Oper der Stadt Koln, at the Vienna Opera Ballet and at Den Norske Ballet of Oslo.

Mr. Raines created ballets for companies including Dance Theater of Harlem and the Capitol Ballet of Washington. He was the first black choreographer to work at the Royal Opera in London, creating the dance and musical staging for Michael Tippett's "Ice Break" in 1977.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/31/obituaries/walter-raines-54-dancer-and-choreographer.html

Further Readings:

Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance (Triangulations: Lesbian/Gay/Queer Theater/Drama/Performance) by James F. Wilson
Paperback: 262 pages
Publisher: University of Michigan Press (July 22, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0472034898
ISBN-13: 978-0472034895
Amazon: Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance

Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies shines the spotlight on historically neglected plays and performances that challenged early twentieth-century notions of the stratification of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. On Broadway stages, in Harlem nightclubs and dance halls, and within private homes sponsoring rent parties, African American performers of the 1920s and early 1930s teased the limits of white middle-class morality. Blues-singing lesbians, popularly known as "bulldaggers," performed bawdy songs; cross-dressing men vied for the top prizes in lavish drag balls; and black and white women flaunted their sexuality in scandalous melodramas and musical revues. Race leaders, preachers, and theater critics spoke out against these performances that threatened to undermine social and political progress, but to no avail: mainstream audiences could not get enough of the riotous entertainment.

Many of the plays and performances explored here, central to the cultural debates of their time, had been previously overlooked by theater historians. Among the performances discussed are David Belasco's controversial production of Edward Sheldon and Charles MacArthur's Lulu Belle (1926), with its raucous, libidinous view of Harlem. The title character, as performed by a white woman in blackface, became a symbol of defiance for the gay subculture and was simultaneously held up as a symbol of supposedly immoral black women. African Americans Florence Mills and Ethel Waters, two of the most famous performers of the 1920s, countered the Lulu Belle stereotype in written statements and through parody, thereby reflecting the powerful effect this fictional character had on the popular imagination.

Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies is based on historical archival research including readings of eyewitness accounts, newspaper reports, songs, and playscripts. Employing a cultural studies framework that incorporates queer and critical race theory, it argues against the widely held belief that the stereotypical forms of black, lesbian, and gay show business of the 1920s prohibited the emergence of distinctive new voices. Specialists in American studies, performance studies, African American studies, and gay and lesbian studies will find the book appealing, as will general readers interested in the vivid personalities and performances of the singers and actors introduced in the book.

James F. Wilson is Professor of English and Theatre at LaGuardia Community College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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Tags: dancer: walter raines, gay classics
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