Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Eleanor King

Eleanor King


Honored February, 1986

Eleanor King

"I have been asked what were the obstacles I had to overcome in my dancing life. I had a lot of resistance to overcome with my family," Eleanor King recalled. "My parents were not at all impressed that I wanted to be a dancer; this was unheard of in my family. I had five brothers and sisters who all thought I was mad, and that in a way was a good... springboard, I guess. The more they objected, the more I was determined to do it."

A pioneer modern dancer and soloist with the Humphrey-Weidman Company during the early years of modern dance, Eleanor's career as a dancer and choreographer spanned six decades. Her repertory of more than one hundred dances was inspired by her lifelong study of the dances of other cultures.

Born in 1906 to Emma and George King, an engineer, in Middletown, Pennsylvania, Eleanor was ambitious in her youth. "I wanted to do everything. I wanted to paint and draw and dance and act, and in my own crude ways, I did all of those things."

The King family moved to Brooklyn in 1922. Eleanor went to see Anna Pavlova's farewell tour at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1923 and "went home and wrote a poem about the swan dying so silently." She graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in 1924 and began studying theater with Priscilla Robineau, who told Eleanor that to become a professional dancer she must study at the Denishawn School. In the fall of 1927 she enrolled, only to learn that "Ruth St. Denis and Mr. Shawn and company were on tour." Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman were in charge, but this turned out to work in her favor. "I didn't know how lucky I was ... after three lessons with Doris, she invited me to be one of the purples in her new ballet called Color Harmony," Eleanor recalled.

Please see Volume 1 for complete text.
Photo ©1997 by Joanne Rijmes