Agnes De Mille


Biography of Agnes De Mille

Agnes George de Mille (September 18, 1905 – October 7, 1993) was an American dancer and choreographer.

Agnes de Mille was born in New York City into a well-connected family of theater professionals. Her father William C. deMille and her uncle Cecil B. DeMille were both Hollywood directors. She was the granddaughter of playwright Henry Churchill de Mille and the economist Henry George.

She had a love for acting and originally wanted to be an actress, but was told that she was 'not pretty enough', so she turned her attention to dance. As a child, she had longed to dance, but dance at this time was considered more of an activity, rather than a viable career option, so her parents refused to allow her to dance. When de Mille's younger sister was prescribed ballet classes to cure her flat feet, de Mille joined her. De Mille lacked flexibility and technique, though, and did not have a dancer's body. Classical ballet was the most widely known dance form at this time, and de Mille's apparent lack of ability limited her opportunities. She taught herself from watching film stars on the set with her father in Hollywood; these were more interesting for her to watch than perfectly turned out legs, and she developed strong character work and compelling performances. One of de Mille’s earliest jobs, thanks to her father’s connections, was choreographing the film Cleopatra in 1934, though the dances were later cut from the film. She appeared in The Ragamuffin in 1916, which was her first job.

De Mille graduated from UCLA where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and in 1933 moved to London to study with Dame Marie Rambert, eventually joining Rambert's company, The Ballet Club, later Ballet Rambert, and Antony Tudor's London Ballet.

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