Cynthia Gregory, whom Rudolf Nureyev called "America's prima ballerina assoluta," was celebrated as one of the world's greatest ballerinas during a career that spanned more than a quarter of a century.
Much of Miss Gregory's early training was with Carmelita Maracci in her native Los Angeles, California. When she was 14, she was awarded a Ford Foundation scholarship to Lew Christensen's San Francisco Ballet. Becoming a member of the company a year later, she quickly rose to soloist and then principal status, while also dancing leading roles with the San Francisco Opera. Miss Gregory joined American Ballet Theatre in 1965. In 1967, when ABT was on tour in San Francisco, Miss Gregory, not quite 21 years old, made an auspicious debut as Odette/Odile in the full-length Swan Lake. Her New York debut in that role a few months later marked her emergence as a major ballerina. Throughout her career, she was forever associated with her memorable interpretation of Odette/Odile in that quintessential classic.
Miss Gregory danced in more than 80 other works during her 26 years with the company. Her classical repertoire included the ballerina roles in Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia, Raymonda, La Bayadère, Don Quixote and La Sylphide. She also danced many notable 20th century ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, Agnes DeMille, Glen Tetley, Birgit Culberg and Jose Limón. Roles created for her include Eliot Feld's Harbinger and At Midnight, Alvin Ailey's The River, Dennis Nahat's Brahms Quintet and Mendelssohn Symphony, Michael Smuin's The Eternal Idol and Twyla Tharp's Bach Partita.
Miss Gregory enjoyed performing internationally as a guest artist. She danced on tours of Australia and Brazil with Margot Fonteyn and other renowned ballet stars. She was a guest with the National Ballet of Canada, Vienna State Opera Ballet and the Zurich State Opera Ballet, the ballet company of the Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and the Stuttgart, Munich and Berlin State Opera Ballets … to name a few. Many of her favorite partners were considered the great male dancers of their time, including Rudolf Nureyev, Erik Bruhn, Fernando Bujones … and Big Bird, on a PBS "special!"
In the United States, she was a Permanent Guest Artist with the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet. Miss Gregory also performed as a guest with the San Francisco Ballet, Ballet Met, Ballet West, at Jacob's Pillow and with companies in major cities. She led her own group of dancers on tours to North and South America, as well as Taiwan. In 1992, she danced her final performance in New York City, a dramatic solo created for her by Frances Patrelle, depicting the life of Clara Schumann.
Miss Gregory was frequently seen on TV in Live From Lincoln Center performances. She appeared in "Night Of 100 Stars," "The Big Show" with Steve Allen and Alexander Godunov, and the Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin talk shows. Paired with Linda Ronstadt in the music video "When You Wish Upon A Star," she also played herself on an episode of the soap opera, "The Edge of Night," and was featured performing in campaign ads for Rolex, American Express and the Raytheon Corporation.
Miss Gregory is the recipient of many awards, including the 1975 Dance Magazine Award, the 1978 Harkness Ballet Foundation Award, and two annual awards from the Dance Educators of America. She was made a Lion of the New York Public Library and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at both Hofstra University and Purchase College. Miss Gregory has authored two books, Ballet Is the Best Exercise and Cynthia Gregory Dances Swan Lake. After retiring from ABT in 1991, she became the Chairman of the Board of Career Transition For Dancers, a not-for-profit organization which provides valuable services free of charge to dancers considering new careers. For over a decade, her enthusiastic efforts raised funds, visibility and status for this worthy organization. To this day, Miss Gregory continues her involvement in the role of Chairman Emeritus.
To pass on her knowledge and experience, her passion and wisdom, for the benefit of future generations, Miss Gregory stages ballets, coaches and teaches master classes in this country and internationally. This versatile artist is also devoted to the visual arts and expresses herself in pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings. Her work has been shown at the Lincoln Center Gallery, in New York and Connecticut art shows, and on greeting cards, posters and CD covers.
When all is said and done, her favorite role is mother of her son, Lloyd Gregory Miller.
Clarice Geissel-Rathers enjoyed a 20 year dance career with Nevada Ballet Theatre beginning in 1983. She retired from the company as a Principal Dancer in 2004. A graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Clarice joined the Arizona Ballet Theatre as a soloist and later became a member of Ballet West. She has worked under several renowned choreographers such as Sir Frederick Ashton, Toni Launders, Anton Dolin, Vassili Sulich and James Jeon. Clarice’s repertoire includes Harald Lander’s Études, and George Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante, Serenade, Symphony in C and Concerto Barocco. She has danced numerous principal roles including Odette/Odile in Louis Godfrey and Denise Schultz’s Swan Lake, and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty as well as leads in Carmina Burana, Anna Karenina and Paquita. Clarice is a recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts.