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Loss of a Legend

George Zoritch, 1917-2009



Legendary dancer George Zoritch, who danced with Ballet Russe and other pioneering ballet companies from the 1930s to the 1960s, will be memorialized Sunday in the UA studio where he taught for 14 years.

Zoritch, 92, died at St. Mary's Hospital on Nov. 1, two weeks after a fall at his home on Tucson's westside, says his friend Richard Holden.

Born in Russia in 1917, Zoritch began training in Paris in the early '30s under Russian ballerina Olga Preobrajenska. Western Europe was full of Russian dancers who had fled the Revolution, and Zoritch quickly found a place in an assortment of traveling companies determined to keep classical Russian ballet alive. He danced in Ballets Russes and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, partnering with most of the leading ladies of the day.

He later danced in Hollywood films. He ended his career in Tucson, teaching ballet at the UA and mentoring plenty of local dancers. As recently as two years ago, Holden says, Zoritch flew alone to Perm, Russia, "in a wheelchair," to adjudicate a ballet competition.

The 2005 documentary Ballets Russes resurrected interest in his career, and he was feted at a screening at the Loft Cinema. Douglas Turnbaugh, a producer of the movie, is expected at the memorial and will show clips, Holden says.

The memorial is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6, at the UA Ina Gittings Building, 1713 E. University Blvd., west of Stevie Eller Dance Theatre. Call 743-7976 for more information.

Read Margaret Regan's blog entry at The Range.

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