Lawrence Rhodes Photo Juilliard School

He has inspired generations of dancers: Lawrence Rhodes (Nov 24 1939- Marc 27 2019)

I came to Juilliard as a part of  Larry’s first freshman class. We were chosen by Benjamin Harkarvy, but after his death, Larry was appointed the new director. Larry was an excellent director and teacher. One of the best I ever had. He was musical as hell, his class was challenging but not heavy. He was so honest. Too honest for some. But Larry cared, and Larry got results. There are somethings only Larry could say. I remember one story from a friend of mine (names are changed for privacy) Larry said to one girl in class  “Sall, your fifth position….well…it’s not”. He told it like it is. He would sing the beat of the music, tapping his foot to the rhythm…all while licking his lips. He never missed one beat.
The department changed before my eyes.  I took the first Cunningham class at Juilliard and Merce even came to watch! New things were happening all the time. We worked with William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, and many other great artists. A Juilliard dance alumni said to me once  “The Juilliard kids are dancing better repertory than I am doing in this professional company!” Priceless… because he was right.

Juilliard’s Artistic Director of Dance Lawrence Rhodes, and his wife, Lone Isaksen in J. Butler’s “After Eden”.

He had a great since of humor, sharp and clever. I would talk for to him for hours. He had an incredible passion for dance and a passion for life. To say he gave me a kick in the ass would be an understatement.  It was Larry who threatened to kick me out of Juilliard if I didn’t show up to every class….and I did. To this day, I was scared to miss class…ask my ballet masters. Mainly he made me realize that there are no shortcuts.

Larry was born in West Virginia in 1939 and moved to Detroit with his family two years later. Larry studied at the Ballet Russe School, and he began his career performing 19th- and 20th-century repertoire in New York with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1958-1960. In 1960, he became a principal dancer at the Joffrey Ballet, where he was praised for his dramatic and disciplined performances in new works such as Gerald Arpino’s Partita for Four and Ropes; and Brian MacDonald’s Time Out of Mind, which demonstrated his dramatic range.

Lawrence Rhodes dancing George Skibine’s “Sarabande.” during a Harkness Ballet tour in Barcelona.  

In 1964, Larry became a principal dancer with the newly-formed Harkness Ballet and was voted artistic director – while continuing to perform – four years later by his fellow company members. It was at the Harkness that Larry became known as an outstanding dramatic presence in landmark ballets created for him: Stuart Hodes’ The Abyss; and John Butler’s Sebastian and After Eden, the latter of which was created for Larry and his wife, Lone Isaksen. He also danced in the Harkness’ famed revival of Rudi van Dantzig’s Monument for a Dead Boy.

To help deal with the overwhelming responsibilities of simultaneously performing and directing, Mr. Rhodes asked Benjamin Harkarvy to join him as co-artistic director of Harkness Ballet in 1969, prior to the disbanding of the company by Rebekah Harkness in 1970. It was the first of several times that Larrys career path would intersect with Mr. Harkarvy’s; both subsequently went to Amsterdam in 1970, joining the Het Nationale Ballet, where Larry became a permanent guest artist. Then, from 1971-1973, He was co-director of the Milwaukee Ballet. Beginning in 1972, he was guest artist (and subsequently a principal dancer) with The Pennsylvania Ballet where he danced with guest ballerina Natalia Makarova.  Larry danced there until 1978 and was instrumental in bringing Mr. Harkarvy to that company as artistic director. Larry also was a principal dancer with the Eliot Feld Ballet during that same period and pursued freelance work, most notably with Carla Fracci in Italy.

After a tenure as teacher and chairman of the dance department at New York University, Mr. Rhodes spent an outstanding decade as artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. Larry was also a prominent guest teacher with such companies as Lyon Opera Ballet and Cullberg Ballet in Europe among others.  He has also participated as adjudicator for the Beijing International Invitational Ballet Competition, the Seoul International Dance Competition, and the Youth America Grand Prix. In July 2009, Mr. Rhodes received the Lifetime Career Achievement Award from Dance Teacher magazine. In December, 2008, he received a Dance magazine award for his outstanding work in the industry.

Armando Braswell with Lawrence Rhodes, Photo private

I met Larry this past summer of 2018 for lunch in New York. It was so nice to sit and talk with him about life and the dance world. I thanked him again for all he has done for me and for staying beside me all these years. He thanked me for being there for the graduates and then insisted to buy my lunch.” Is that all your eating?” he asked as I stood up to leave. Before I could answer he said “keep dancing….. you have a great body for it” and we both starting laughing. One of my favorite quotes is “You have to learn right away to respect the process. You have to keep firm your commitment to do the work through all the ups and downs that you will experience. You want to try to find honesty and integrity in all the work that you do.” thank you Larry for all you have done. You have inspired generations of dancers.


Photos private archive