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Ballet Legend Violette Verdy Dies At Age 82

  • Verdy

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    Photo: Courtesy: Indiana University

    Verdy died Monday, Feb. 8, in Bloomington, Ind. She joined the IU faculty in 1996.

  • Verdy

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    Photo: Courtesy: Martha Swope

    Violette Verdy in "Emeralds" from "Jewels" by George Balanchine, 1967.

  • Violette Verdy

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    Photo: Courtesy: Indiana University

    "Pulcinella" rehearsal with Edward Villella and George Balanchine, 1972.

Ballet legend Violette Verdy died yesterday in Bloomington at the age of 82.

Verdy was the principal dancer for the New York City Ballet for two decades and the artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet and Boston Ballet.

Verdy began dancing in 1939 at age six. Her performance career extended through 1977. During that time she performed with more than 50 companies and in more than 100 ballets.

Verdy joined the ballet faculty at the Jacobs School of Music in 1996. She continued to teach until her unexpected death Monday.

Gwyn Richards, Jacobs School of Music dean, says students admired her.

“The kids would look to her with such reverence, such appreciation that this seminal figure in this field was in their midst and that they just had a chance to be taught by her. She was the muse for Balanchine and they then had a direct line to someone like Balanchine.”

IU President Michael McRobbie awarded her the IU President’s Medal For Excellence in 2013 – that’s the highest honor an IU president can bestow.

During the 2013 award presentation McRobbie called Verdy an “Indiana University treasure.”

“Her remarkable achievements as a dancer and choreographer have garnered her international acclaim and several of the highest honors in her field,” McRobbie said, “and she is equally renowned for her dedication to training future generations of dancers, including many who have launched successful careers at the IU Jacobs School of Music.”

The Jacobs School is inviting people to leave their thoughts and remembrances on the school’s blog. Richards says everyone Verdy met seemed to instantly develop a personal relationship with her.

“She was so grateful for the life that unfolded for her and for how it informed how she lived her life,” Richards says. “There was almost no separation between the joy that her creative life brought and the joy that she personally lived in every moment, in every encounter, in every trip and in every new person that she met — there was joy in that. It was a fully and deeply engaged life.”

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