In July of 2002, ballet master and master teacher Lawrence Rhodes was appointed the artistic director of the Juilliard Dance Division. Now going in to his fourteenth season at the School, Mr. Rhodes has implemented several changes in the Dance Division curriculum and focused each of the Division’s performance series on a particular theme: new works by well-known and up-and-coming choreographers, classic repertoire, and the year’s best work by Juilliard’s own young choreographers. In July 2009, Mr. Rhodes received the Lifetime Career Achievement Award from Dance Teacher magazine. In December, 2008, he received a Dance magazine award for his outstanding work in the industry.
Mr. Rhodes was born in West Virginia in 1939 and moved to Detroit with his family two years later. He began tap dancing at age nine and discovered ballet when he was fourteen. Mr. Rhodes studied at the Ballet Russe School, and he began his career performing 19th- and 20th-century repertoire in New York with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1958-1960. In 1960, he became a principal dancer at the Joffrey Ballet, where he was praised for his dramatic and disciplined performances in new works such as Gerald Arpino’s Partita for Four and Ropes; and Brian MacDonald’s Time Out of Mind, which demonstrated Mr. Rhodes’ dramatic range.
In 1964, Mr. Rhodes became a principal dancer with the newly-formed Harkness Ballet and was voted artistic director – while continuing to perform – four years later by his fellow company members. It was at the Harkness that Mr. Rhodes became known as an outstanding dramatic presence in landmark ballets created for him: Stuart Hodes’ The Abyss; and John Butler’s Sebastian and After Eden, the latter of which was created for Mr. Rhodes and his wife, Lone Isaksen. He also danced in the Harkness’ famed revival of Rudi van Dantzig’s Monument for a Dead Boy.
To help deal with the overwhelming responsibilities of simultaneously performing and directing, Mr. Rhodes asked Benjamin Harkarvy to join him as co-artistic director of Harkness Ballet in 1969, prior to the disbanding of the company by Rebekah Harkness in 1970. It was the first of several times that Mr. Rhodes’ career path would intersect with Mr. Harkarvy’s; both subsequently went to Amsterdam in 1970, joining the Het Nationale Ballet, where Mr. Rhodes became a permanent guest artist. Then, from 1971-1973, Mr. Rhodes was co-director of the Milwaukee Ballet. Beginning in 1972, he was guest artist (and subsequently a principal dancer) with The Pennsylvania Ballet where he danced with guest ballerina Natalia Makarova. He danced there until 1978 and was instrumental in bringing Mr. Harkarvy to that company as artistic director. Mr. Rhodes also was a principal dancer with the Eliot Feld Ballet during that same period and pursued freelance work, most notably with Carla Fracci in Italy.
After a tenure as teacher and chairman of the dance department at New York University, Mr. Rhodes spent an outstanding decade as artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, where he exposed the company and Canada to works by Jirí Kylián, Nacho Duato, William Forsythe, Ohad Naharin, Balanchine, Tudor, Limón, and Jooss; and commissioned works by Mark Morris, James Kudelka, Mark Godden, Ib Andersen, Édouard Lock, and others. Mr. Rhodes re-established the international footprint of the company with an annual international tour in addition to its annual Canadian tour. He strengthened the artistic uniqueness of Les Grands Ballet Canadiens as a top company with contemporary repertoire, debuting works by sought-after European choreographers in Canada and introducing the works of Canadian choreographers to audiences in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Mr. Rhodes currently is a prominent guest teacher with such companies as Lyon Opera Ballet and Cullberg Ballet in Europe among others. He has also participated as adjudicator for the Beijing International Invitational Ballet Competition, the Seoul International Dance Competition, and the Youth America Grand Prix.