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Ivan Nagy

Artistic adviser to the Hungarian State Opera House Ballet (Hungary)

Ivan Nagy, one of the great names in dance dur­ing the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, was born on 28 April 1943 in Hun­gary. He trained first with his mother going on to per­form with the Bud­apest State Opera Bal­let. Fre­deric Frank­lin spot­ted the young man when Nagy won a sil­ver medal at the Inter­na­tional Bal­let Com­pet­i­tion at Varna in 1965. As dir­ector of the National Bal­let of Wash­ing­ton at the time, Frank­lin invited Nagy to appear as a guest artist with the com­pany. He went on to per­form with the New York City Bal­let and became a prin­cipal dan­cer with the Amer­ican Bal­let Theatre in 1968. He became one of American Ballet Theater's most popular stars in the 1970s as an acclaimed partner to great ballerinas.

He danced with all the great baller­inas of his day includ­ing Mar­got Fon­teyn and Carla Fracci, but it per­haps with Cyn­thia Gregory, Gel­sey Kirk­land and Nat­alia Makarova that he formed his most fam­ous part­ner­ships. Max Waldman’s iconic photo of Nagy and Markarova in Swan Lake is a fixture in dance shops every­where. He said that he was always “a little in love with my partners.”

He retired when he was just 35 in 1978. With his wife, ex-London Fest­ival Bal­let baller­ina Mar­ilyn Burr, he re-staged many rep­er­toire bal­lets all over the world. He col­lab­or­ated with the Bal­let de San­ti­ago, becom­ing its dir­ector in 1982, and brought them to New York in 1986 for their Amer­ican début. He worked hard to whip the com­pany into shape.

He was the Artistic Dir­ector of the Cincinnati/New Orleans Bal­let until 1989. He was also dir­ector of the Eng­lish National Bal­let for a short period, and 15 years ago he retired to Mallorca.

He died in Bud­apest where he was work­ing with the Hun­garian Bal­let Company.