NEW YORK (AP) _ Albert Evans, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer and one of the most prominent African-Americans in classical dance, has died at age 46.
Evans died at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital on June 22 “following a short illness,” said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for the ballet company. He did not have further details.
Evans was one of only two African-American principal dancers in New York City Ballet’s 67-year history. The first was Arthur Mitchell, who is now 81.
As a principal, Evans danced a huge variety of roles in the City Ballet repertoire, from classical to modern, from George Balanchine to Jerome Robbins to Christopher Wheeldon. He joined the company in 1988 and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a soloist in 1991 and a principal in 1995. Evans retired during the spring 2010 season with an emotional farewell performance, and had been serving since then as a ballet master at the company.
“The entire New York City Ballet family is heartbroken by the loss of our beloved friend and colleague Albert Evans,” said Peter Martins, the company’s ballet master in chief, in a statement. “Kind, warm, generous, and always a joy to be with, Albert is quite simply irreplaceable.”
Evans was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and trained there as a youngster. In 1986, he was awarded a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet, NYCB’s official school.
His more prominent roles in Balanchine ballets included the Cavalier in “The Nutcracker” and Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” among many others. He had featured roles in Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia” and “Liturgy.” And he originated roles in a number of works by Martins, including his 1991 “Sleeping Beauty,” in which Evans danced Puss in Boots, and “Romeo + Juliet,” in which he played a commanding Prince of Verona.
Friends and colleagues in the dance world took to social media on Tuesday to praise Evans.
“Goodbye dear Albert, a beautiful soul,” wrote choreographer Alexei Ratmansky on Facebook.
“He gave us all the strength, beauty, joy, laughter, smiles, passion, and inspiration to keep going, to keep pushing onward, to be the best we could be,” wrote principal dancer Sara Mearns on Instagram.
Dancer and rising choreographer Justin Peck, also on Instagram, called Evans “such an incredible, luminous person. Albert always brought warmth, hospitality, enthusiasm, humor to any situation.”
In addition to his dance roles, Evans choreographed several works, including “Haiku,” to music by John Cage, for New York City Ballet’s 2002 Diamond Project, as well as a solo for NYCB principal Peter Boal in 2003, performed at the Joyce Theater.
Evans also appeared in the 2002 “Live From Lincoln Center” broadcast of “New York City Ballet’s Diamond Project: Ten Years of New Choreography.”