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Mary Hinkson

( b. Mar 16, 1925 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA - d. Nov 26, 2014 New York, New York, USA ) Female

Mary Hinkson was one of Martha Graham's most important leading dancers, whose performances from the 1950s through the early '70s were filled with unbridled dramatic power. Ms. Hinkson, who was one of the first two black dancers to join the Martha Graham Dance Company, was also a frequent guest artist with other choreographers and became an influential teacher both in the United States and abroad.

She was a highly versatile member of the Graham troupe. In the title role of "Circe," which Graham created for her in 1963, Ms. Hinkson exuded a mix of ferocity and subtlety as the sorceress who casts a spell on Ulysses. Coaching her in the role, Graham told her that she must look at him obliquely, as if she were an animal sensing his presence.

By contrast, with straightforward serenity and elegance, Ms. Hinkson made the figure in white in "Diversion of Angels," a signature role, a symbol of love.

In the early 1970s she appeared in a revival of Graham's "Deaths and Entrances" as Emily Brontë, a role Graham herself had danced. Ms. Hinkson stunned audiences with the sharp-angled savagery of her dance of madness in a widely hailed performance.

In 1951 Ms. Hinkson and Matt Turney, her roommate at the University of Wisconsin, became the first black dancers to join the Graham company. With her perfect execution of the Graham dance vocabulary, however, Ms. Hinkson made her reputation as a Graham dancer and was not defined as a dancer who usually explored the black heritage. She resisted being seen through a racial prism, though she acknowledged she would be.

Yet she was aware that she was breaking racial boundaries in the dance world at the height of the civil rights movement. When Ms. Hinkson received the Martha Hill Award, a prestigious dance prize, her granddaughter, Elsa Hardy, accepting it on her behalf, recalled that as Ms. Hinkson and Ms. Turney sat by a fountain in Italy while on tour in 1954, they wept on learning of the Supreme Court ruling ending school segregation.

In 1959, another choreographer, Donald McKayle, who had also danced with the Graham troupe and was interested in the black heritage, featured Ms. Hinkson in the premiere of "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder," which became his signature piece. In another powerful role, she performed as the mother and sweetheart envisioned by prisoners on a chain gang.

A change of pace came when Balanchine invited Ms. Hinkson to dance with his company's black star, Arthur Mitchell, in Balanchine's new "Figure in the Carpet" at the New York City Ballet in 1960. Appearing in an imagined 18th-century court divertissement, she and Mr. Mitchell portrayed an African prince and his consort. Walter Terry, dance critic of The New York Herald Tribune, called their performance "exceptionally lively and majestic."

But Ms. Hinkson's heart belonged to the Graham repertoire, which increasingly provided her with great roles and success in works like "Cave of the Heart," "Seraphic Dialogue" and "Clytemnestra." Ms. Hinkson and the dancer Bertram Ross directed the company when Graham became ill in 1970 but clashed with her on her return. Ms. Hinkson, already a famed teacher in the United States and abroad, resigned from the company in 1973 and retired as a dancer.

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
Martha Graham and Dance Company
Acrobats of God
[Special, Dance, Original]
  • Performer: Mary Hinkson
Cortege of Eagles
[Special, Dance, Original]
  • Also Starring: Mary Hinkson [Helen of Troy]
May 25, 1968 - 1968
Milk and Honey
[Musical, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: Mary Hinkson
        Maid of Honor - Replacement
        Ensemble - Replacement
Oct 10, 1961 - Jan 26, 1963
Martha Graham and her Dance Company
[Special, Dance, Original]
  • Performer: Mary Hinkson [Ensemble]
May 04, 1960 - May 07, 1960
Find out where Mary Hinkson and are credited together