Not Slowing Down! The Most Influential Dancers Over 50
Known for her directing, film producing, acting and choreography skills, Farah Khan is one of the biggest names in Bollywood dance.
At 51 years old, Farah has choreographed over 80 Indian films and was heavily inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” After taking over for Saroj Khan for years, she and her husband now own a successful production business called Three’s Company.
Deemed one of the 12 greatest ballerinas of all time, Soviet Georgia- based dancer Nina Ananiashvili is and always will be a household name in the delicate art of ballet.
After performing in some of the most famous plays in the world for decades and learning from the best in the world, Nina was finally named the Best Ballerina of the Year in 2002 by US Magazine.
She has since retired her dancing career and is the artistic director of the National Ballet Ensemble of Georgia, as well as an United Nations National Goodwill Ambassador for Millennium Development Goals.
World famous ballerina Gelsey Kirkland made quite a name for herself during her 20 year career, especially as Clara in The Nutcracker in the American Ballet Theatre.
Unfortunately, after struggling with personal and health issues, she left the Theatre in 1984 and has since choreographed The Sleeping Beauty and even performed as the Wicked Fairy, Carabosse.
Soon after returning to the stage for the first time in 20 years, she established her Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet in New York City.
At 63 years old, Gelsey can be found teaching classical ballet in the Big Apple, loving and living her passion daily.
Former British ballet dancer Anthony Dowell is one of the most recognizable male dancers in the industry.
After being cast the role of Oberon in The Dream, Dowell showed the world that he was one of the greatest ballet dancers in the world which led to other roles like Titania in Nocturne and Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet.
Having experienced an incredible career, Dowell retired from the Royal Ballet in ’84 but still stayed relevant in the industry with his dance appearances in Winter Dreams and The Nutcracker in ’99.
What can be said about Natalia Makarova?
This insanely beautiful Soviet-Russian ballerina not only landed some of the biggest roles in history during her long and successful career, but was named as the “finest ballerina of her generation in the West.”
Roles she acquired in Giselle, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and more brought her the worldwide fame that was and still is so deserving of and even a Tony Award.
After retiring due to injuries in ’89, Makarova decided to settle down with her family.
At 86 years, American choreographer Paul Taylor is still considered one of the best in the business.
Starting at the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955, the brilliant visionary has become increasingly involved in bettering the world using the art of dance.
Before being awarded with an Emmy, the Kennedy Center Honors and even the National Medal of Arts, Taylor was knighted by the French government in 1969.
His work continues to contribute to the art of dance and ballet all over the world to this day through the Paul Taylor Dance Company.
French ballerina Sylvie Guillem enjoyed a 20+ year career in both the Paris Opera ballet and Royal Ballet as a principal guest artist.
Being cast in Giselle, Swan Lake and Don Quixote, in 2001 Sylvie was the first to win the Nijinsky Prize, establishing she was the best ballerina dancer in the world.
Giving her final performance of her career, Guillem wowed Japan with Maurice Bejart’s Bolero as the clock geared toward the stroke of midnight.
Life in Progress marked the end of a beautiful era and her involvement in the ballet world. She will be missed.
The Latvian-born, world famous dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov is among the greatest male dancers of all time. Unfortunately for Baryshnikov, his upbringing in the Soviet Union restricted him from his potential within the industry, as well as his height compared to the prima ballerinas.
Partnering with some of the most talented female dancers in the world, Mikhail moved from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to the American Ballet Theatre before touring the world with different theatres.
After his return to the ABT, Baryshnikov became artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre leading him to co-found the White Oak Dance Project with Mark Morris.
Born of Scottish decent, professional ballroom dancer Donnie Burns is now the President of the World Dance Council.
With a specialization in Latin Dance, Burns is considered the “Michael Jordan” of ballroom dancing and has made appearances on Dancing With the Stars. The now-retired dancer resides with his wife Heidi Groskreutz, who is famous from Dancing With the Stars.
The beautiful, British prima ballerina Antoinette Sibley will always be one of the greatest dancers in the world and is famously known to have owned the role of Dorabella in The Guardian.
Starting out at the Royal Ballet Academy when she was a young girl, Sibley showed much promise… eventually filling roles like Odette in Swan Lake, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty and MacMillan in Manon.
After her retirement in ’89, Sibley finally left the stage “before it could leave her.”
She is now the President of the Royal Academy of Dance, a guest coach for the Royal Ballet and Governor on the Royal Ballet Board. She also looks incredible for her age!
Israeli dancer and choreographer Valery Matveevich Panov was born and raised in the Soviet Union. After managing to break free from the country, Valery immersed himself in the Berlin Opera Ballet as a guest choreographer and principal dancer.
Performing in leading roles for years as a part of the Mally Ballet in Leningrad, Panov founded the Ashdod Art Centre and eventually the Panov Ballet Theatre in Ashdod years later. Having created beautiful art like Cinderella, Cleopatre, Hamlet and more, Panov is easily one of the greatest choreographers of our time.
After a long, extremely successful career, American ballerina and dance master Twyla Tharp is still considered one of the mothers of contemporary dance choreography.
Starting out with the Paul Taylor Dance Company in ’63, Tharp showed great promise leading to the development of her own company Twyla Tharp Dance only three years later.
Creating art for the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Miami Ballet and more, Twyla Tharp is always will be the definition of perfection.
At age 75, she still currently teaches dance in New York City at her company.
The father of “wand combat choreography,” Paul Harris is considered one of the greatest American dance teachers of all time.
Starting dance at a young age, Harris acquired roles in famous plays like Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, To Kill A Mockingbird, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls and many more. Jumping from freelance choreography for Latin, contemporary, ballroom dance and more, Harris founded the London Theatre of Ballroom in ’96 but is most famously known for his wand-work on Harry Potter.
Having worked with famous names like Madonna, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, Tom Cruise and many more, American choreographer Mia Michaels is high on our list of influential dance teachers.
Specializing in modern and contemporary dance, Michaels has made huge strides as an Emmy Award-winning host on So You Think You Can Dance and has composed beautiful Broadway choreography in shows like Hello Dolly! and Finding Neverland. Having recently left SYTYCD, Michaels is currently working on dance projects that we are excited to see in the future!
American actor, dancer, choreographer and artist Debbie Allen is one of the household names in dance that everyone recognizes, mainly from her choreography role in Fame that won her three Emmy Awards. No big deal!
As a Broadway star at a young age, Allen earned several Tony Awards in big shows like West Side Story, Raisin and Purlie. After landing a small acting role on the show Good Times and several Tony Award-winning dancing roles, at age 66 she now works at her studio, the Debbie Allen Dance Company in Los Angeles, CA.
Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Judith Jamison has choreographed everywhere from the American Ballet Theatre to the Swedish Royal Ballet and more.
After successfully dancing all over the world and founding her Judith Jamison Project in ’81, Jamison returned to the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater seven years later due to Alvin’s passing.
London- based dancer Siobhan Davies is well known for her work in the London Contemporary Dance Theatre and was the first choreographer ever to win the Fullbright Arts Fellowship.
Starting out at the Dance Theatre Robert Cohan in ’67, Davies eventually opened up and ran her own dance studio as the Siobhan Davies Dance Company until 2007. Davies (66) currently works at her newest venture, Siobhan Davies Studios in London, England, and still continues to contribute to the art of modern and contemporary dance.
Thomas “Tommy” Tune
Awarded with ten Tony Awards and the National Medal of Arts, Thomas “Tommy” Tune is a 77-year-old American actor, dancer, choreographer, director and producer.
Most famously recognized for his Broadway roles in Baker Street and The Best Little Whore House In Texas, Tune is the only person to ever receive Tony Awards in the same two categories of Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical two years in a row.
Currently residing in Houston, TX, Tune can be found in performing and choreographing shows still to this day.
Abby Lee Miller
Famously known for her role in Lifetime Series Dance Moms, Abby Lee Miller is an American choreographer and director.
Growing up with dance at her mother’s Maryen Lorrain Dance Studio, Abby founded her own studio, The Abby Lee Miller Dance Company at just 14 years old.
Abby Lee Miller Fraud
Following the explicit content displayed on the show Dance Moms, Miller’s membership to the Dance Masters of American Pennsylvania was revoked.
Currently Miller, 50, is entangled in bankruptcy fraud, concealment of bankruptcy assets and false bankruptcy declarations case of fraud and faces pending charges for her mistakes.
American dancer and choreographer William Forsythe is most famously known for his work with the Ballet Frankfurt and the Forsythe Company that he founded in 2005.
Starting out under the wing of the world famous Joffrey Ballet, Forsythe was awarded the role of Resident Choreographer in ’76. After being appointed director of the Ballet Frankfurt, Forsythe, 66, can now be found as a professor at UCLA’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
As the most famous name in Hindu dancing, Saroj Khan is the mother of Bollywood dance and has choreographed more than 2,000 films in Indian cinema.
Inititally starting out as a background dancer, Khan studied dance under the famous Indian choreographer B. Sohanal.
Slowly becoming an independent teacher over the years, Saroj finally received credit for her contribution to Bollywood choreography in films Sri Devi, Mr. India, Nagina, Chandni and many, many others.
Currently Saroj, 67, can be found as a host and judge on her reality dance show Nachle Ve with Saroj Khan.
Do we really need to tell you who Paula Abdul is? Discovered by the Jacksons as a Lakers cheerleader at just 18 years old, Abdul became one of the most famous singers and dancers of the 80s era.
Although she was a talented dancer, she showed much progress for a career in choreography at the start.
Winning a Grammy for her work in “Opposites Attract,” Abdul was awarded “Best Music Video- Short Form” in ’89.
More recently Paula has made a name for herself on reality shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars. She still looks amazing for 54!
Gorgeous, Brando-love-struck 70s star Rita Moreno was and still is an influential piece of Latina history in dance, song and acting.
Although Moreno’s career took more of an acting- focused turn, Rita started out on Broadway as Angelina in Skydrift.
With experience as a Spanish dancer, Moreno landed huge star roles in Singin’ In The Rain, The King and I, West Side Story, The Toast of New Orleans and more.
After a long, successful career in film, Moreno, 84, can be found playing guest roles on shows like Jane The Virgin and others. The stunning Latina has yet to lose her spark!
Broadway was the destiny for American actress, dancer and singer Chita Rivera.
At only 15 years old, Rivera was chosen to audition for George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet and was granted the scholarship. She even took a friend to an audition in support and ended up landing the lead role!
As a huge piece of New York Broadway in the 50s, Chita starred in major plays like West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Can- Can, Call Me Madame and many more.
Eventually making it to film, Chita Rivera was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 2002 as the first ever Latina and Hispanic woman to receive the award.
Cuban prima ballerina Alicia Alonso, most famous for her work in Carmen and Giselle, has become known as one of the greatest ballerinas of all time despite her rare eye condition developed when she was just 19 years old.
Under her original name Alicia Martinez, Alonso danced her way into the hearts of the world in Sleeping Beauty at only 10 years old.
With an intense desire to build ballet in Cuba, Alonso experienced trouble from the U.S. under the rule of Castro as he befriended her after her founding of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
Despite the negative feedback, Alicia, 94, is still considered the best ballerina of her time.
Classical Indian dancer Mallika Sarabhai starred in her very first film at 15 years old as Draupadi in The Mahabhrata. As a major influence in Indian dance, Sarabhai uses her talent and passion for dance to better the world as social activist.
At 62 years of age, Mallika manages the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts located at Ahmedabad. As a dance soloist, Sarabhai focuses on her involvement in the world through the art of classic dance with her mother.
Stunning Italian prima ballerina Alessandra Ferri danced with the Royal Ballet at the young age of 23 after studying at the La Scala Threatre Ballet School.
Performing her first role in the Royal Ballet in Mayerling, Ferri was awarded the Laurence Oliver Award for Outstanding First Achievement of the Year in Ballet and promoted to Principal Dancer within the same year.
After leaving the Royal Ballet due to Mikhail Baryshnikov’s formal request to join him in the American Ballet Theatre, Ferri retired in 2007 with her final performance of Romeo and Juliet.
Gracefully returning to the stage after years of retirement, Ferri performed the incredible The Piano Upstairs in 2013, followed by her role of Lea in Cheri for Signature Theatre, The Raven for Gotham Chamber Opera and in Woolf Works with Royal Ballet.