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Thelma Robinson; Dancer, Teacher

November 07, 1990

Thelma Robinson, a seminal figure on the Los Angeles dance scene and a longtime teacher and choreographer whose students included a young Alvin Ailey, has died.

Erwin Washington, a longtime friend and colleague, said Tuesday that Miss Robinson died Oct. 27 of cancer at a Los Angeles hospital. She was 66.

Lured to dance while a young girl in Prohibition-era Kansas City, she studied ballet and tap in a studio over a nightclub while listening to the music of Count Basie and Benny Carter below.

She turned professional at 17, joining the Katherine Dunham ensemble, then the major black American dance company.

After a trip to Los Angeles with the Dunham troupe in 1945, she opted to stay here, performing, modeling and later teaching dance.

Among her first students was Ailey, then 18.

She continued to teach and choreograph until her health failed.

Survivors include two sons.

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