The cause was AIDS, said a friend, Penny Frank.
Small and wiry, Mr. Godreau danced with a burning, sensuous intensity that earned him the nickname ''the black Nureyev.'' He danced in musicals before joining the Ailey company in 1965, and had a Broadway dancer's knack for selling choreography.
He inevitably brought Ailey audiences to their feet around the world, particularly when he performed the lead role in Geoffrey Holder's 1967 ''Prodigal Prince,'' created for Mr. Godreau. In the dance, Mr. Godreau played Hector Hippolyte, a Haitian folk painter who believed himself inspired by voodoo gods.
Born in Ponce, P.R., Mr. Godreau grew up in New York City and decided to become a dancer by his mid-teens. He trained at the High School of Performing Arts, the Joffrey Ballet school and the New York City Ballet-affiliated School of American Ballet. He began performing in musical theater while still in high school and later danced on Broadway and in London.
His musical theater credits included ''Wonderworld,'' a 1964 World's Fair show choreographed by Michael Kidd, and ''Dear World,'' a 1969 musical starring Angela Lansbury, in which he played the Deaf Mute. He also danced on television and in films, including ''Billie,'' ''Ladies Only,'' ''Swashbuckler'' and, in 1980, ''Altered States,'' in which he played William Hurt's monstrous alter ego.
But he was probably best known for his dancing with Ailey, whose company he joined in 1965 and performed with off and on through the early 1970's.
Mr. Godreau also danced with Donald McKayle, the Harkness Ballet and the Cullberg Ballet in Sweden. He formed a company of his own in the late 1960's.
He also choreographed and rehearsed cabaret acts in Europe and Japan. His last performing job was with the Cirque de Soleil in 1993 and 1994.
Mr. Godreau taught at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, the Broadway Dance Center and the Steps studio in the 1980's and 90's.
Mr. Godreau was married to Judith Jamison, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, from 1972 to 1974, when the marriage was annulled.
Burial: Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, USA. Plot: Actors' Fund Lot 439.
Ailey Ascending: A Portrait in Motion
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 29, 2008)
Amazon: Ailey Ascending: A Portrait in Motion
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, this dazzling book includes both original black and white and full-color photographs by Andrew Eccles. This acclaimed photographer has been documenting the company for the past twelve years, and his breathtakingly beautiful images capture the dancers in performance, behind-the-scenes, and in stunning portraits. With a preface by Judith Jamison, artistic director of the company since 1989, Ailey Ascending reveals the passion and beauty of this award-winning dance troupe today.
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