Gemze de Lappe

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Gemze de Lappe

Gemze de Lappe (February 28, 1922, Portsmouth, Virginia – November 11, 2017 Manhattan) was an American dancer who worked very closely with Agnes de Mille and was frequently partnered by de Mille's favorite male dancer, James Mitchell.[1][2]

Born to daughter of Birch Wood de Lappe (an actor and teacher) and his wife, Maureen (an actress and drummer; maiden name, McDonough), Gemze was originally trained by Irma Duncan and Michel Fokine, de Lappe began her career in Fokine's company. Her Broadway musical theatre performance credits include Simon of Legree in the original production of The King and I (also in the film version), Paint Your Wagon (Donaldson Award winner), Juno, and The American Dance Machine. She appeared in the original West End and first national companies of Oklahoma!, dancing the iconic role of Laurey in the "Dream Ballet". In the early 1950s, she briefly formed part of a dance team with Dean Crane.[3] De Lappe's long concert dance career included engagements with American Ballet Theatre and the Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre. For several years, she was a professor of dance at Smith College, and has held a number of visiting appointments since her nominal retirement. In 1989, Niagara University awarded her an honorary doctorate.[4]

De Lappe died on 11 November 2017, up to which time she remained active as a choreographer and teacher; now, she remains especially well known for reconstructing the work of de Mille, Isadora Duncan, and Jerome Robbins. She recreated de Mille's choreography for the 1979 Broadway revival of Oklahoma! and choreographed Abe Lincoln in Illinois on Broadway. She regularly traveled the country, recreating the original choreography for such shows as The King and I, Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, and Carousel for various professional, regional, and educational theatre companies. In Spring 2011, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts presented an accurate recreation of the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! with the original choreography recreated by De Lappe.[5]

In 2007, she was awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre.[6] In 2012, she received the Martha Hill Dance Fund Lifetime Achievement Award.[7]


  1. ^ "Gemze de Lappe biography". Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  2. ^ Gemze de Lappe, 95, Dies; Keeper of the Agnes de Mille Flame
  3. ^ "Via the Grapevine", Dance Magazine 24.9 (September 1950): 8.
  4. ^ "3 TO GET HONORARY DEGREES AT NIAGARA CONVOCATION". Buffalo News. 1989-05-26. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  5. ^ UNCSA. "UNCSA Oklahoma!". UNCSA Oklahoma!. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  6. ^ "2007 Tony Honors". 2007 Tony Honors. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  7. ^ "Martha Hill Dance Fund, Ltd. • Martha Hill Awards". Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2018-09-04.

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