1st Edition

Christensen Brothers An American Dance Epic

By Debra Hickenlooper Sowell Copyright 1998

    With members of four generations deeply involved in music and dancing, the Christensen Brothers are indisputably the United States' closest equivalent to the European tradition of dance dynasties. Their story sheds light on the history of ballet in twentieth-century America, both through their accomplishments as dancers, teachers, and company directors, and through their association with some of the most significant figures of the dance world such as Lincoln Kirstein, George Balanchine, Sol Hurok, and the Ford Foundation's W. McNeil Lowry. This triple biography encompasses the brothers' Mormon pioneer heritage, the circumstances that led them to enter vaudeville with a ballet act, and the rise and fall especially in the American West of companies with which they were associated for over six decades of their lives. This book provides an alternative to the New York-oriented volumes that so often pass as histories of American dance.
    Debra Hickenlooper Sowell received the De la Torre Bueno Special Ci

    Introduction to the Series, List of Plates, Preface, Prologue, 1. Family Beginnings, 2. Early Training, 3. Life on the Circuit, 4. Wiliam in Portland, 5. Broadway, Balanchine, and Ballet Caravan, 6. Apollo and Mac: A Greek God and a Working Man's Hero, 7. Wiliam and the San Francisco Opera Ballet, 8. In the Shadow of War, 9. Ballet Society and Wiliam's Dream Company, 10. Regrouping, 11. Wiliam Starts Anew in Salt Lake City, 12. Lew Takes Over the San Francisco Ballet, 13. The Ford Foundation Grants, 14. San Francisco Ballet in the 1960s, 15. Ballet West, 16. Recognition and Transitions, 17. The Final Years, Appendix A: Choreography by Wiliam Christensen, Appendix B: Choreography by Lew Christensen, Selected Bibliography, Index


    Debra Hickenlooper Sowell has a Ph. D in Performance Studies from New York University. She teaches at Brigham Young University and is an authority on dance among the Mormons. A formner member of the Cambridge Court Dancers, she has interests that extend to Renaissance court performances and to the romantic ballet in Italy. In 1992she received the John M. Ward Fellowship at the Harvard Theatre Collection. She has served on the board of directors of the Society of Dance History Scholars.

    "Almost everyone who knows anything about American ballet history has at least heard of the Christensen Brothers, Willam, Harold and Lew...In her biography of the three brothers, Debra Hickenlooper Sowell has done a marvelous job of digging out information and, in addition to presenting facts, she makes the Christensens come alive as people...Sowell's book vividly tells the story...What Sowell has given us may inspire further researches into the Christensens. It certainly suggests both the liveliness and the richness of American ballet history." -- Jack Anderson of Dance Chronicle
    "Meticulously documented bio of the three dancing Christensen brothers...The best aspect of Sowell's painstaking research is the even-handed way she paints the brothers' very different personalities...An entertaining read." -- Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco
    "One of the fascinating sagas in dance has finally been addressed in The Christensen Brothers: An American Dance Epic." -- Denver Post
    "Each of the brothers comes alive through Sowell's shrewd perceptions of his basic character... Sowell's fascinating, most readable study of the Christensens celebrates an ironclad alliances and an indestructible loyalty among three brothers who, despite unique biases, maintained strong ties with each other and the Western communities where they flourished." -- Leland Weindrich, Ballet Review
    "An important book that fills in some hidden history of America's dance..." -- Glen Griffin, Dance Magazine
    "In her biography of the brothers, Debra Hickenlooper Sowell has done a marvelous job of digging out information and, in addition to presenting facts, she makes the Christensens come alive as people." -- Jack Anderson, Dance Chronicle