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Sun, 08.08.1920

Karel Shook, Ballet Master born

Karel Shook (Center, foreground)

*Karel Shook was born on this date in 1920.  He was a white-American ballet master, choreographer, stage administrator, and writer.

Karel Shook was born in Renton, Washington, as a child actor in the Seattle Repertory Theatre. He was awarded a scholarship to the Cornish College of the Arts at the age of 13; there, he was encouraged by founder Nellie Cornish to study ballet. Soon afterward, he danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo for several seasons and performed in Broadway musicals.

He danced with the New York City Ballet in 1949. In 1952, he became a member of the faculty of the Katherine Dunham School of Dance; after that school closed in 1954, he opened his school. He joined the faculty of the June Taylor School in 1957. In 1959, he became a teacher at the Dutch National Ballet; he later became a ballet master for the company. In 1968, with Arthur Mitchell, he founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem.  His students included Mitchell, Alvin Ailey, Carmen de Lavallade, and Geoffrey Holder.

He published many written works, including, Elements of Classical Ballet Technique (1977) and Beyond the Mist, a poetry collection.  Shook developed choreography for performance on stage, opera, film, and television; in 1980, he received a presidential award for education.  Karel Shook died July 25, 1985, at home in Englewood, New Jersey, at 64.

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