Rebecca Wright, a former Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre dancer who performed and later taught frequently in Los Angeles from the 1960s through the '90s, has died. She was 58.
Wright died of cancer Sunday at her home in Chevy Chase, Md., according to the Washington Ballet in the District of Columbia.
She had been director of the company's Washington School of Ballet since 2004.
"Although she was here for a short period of time, her impact was great," Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre said Tuesday. "She had a great knowledge of ballet technique and a great passion for it. But most interestingly, she approached both technique and performance from a philosophical standpoint. It was always about relationship and intent, not the mechanics of the step or the phrase."
Born in Springfield, Ohio, Wright studied as a girl at the Dayton Ballet. She was a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet from 1966 to 1975 and a soloist with American Ballet Theatre from 1975 until 1982.
She then choreographed, appeared on television and starred on Broadway, where she received a Drama Desk nomination as best supporting actress for the 1983 musical "Merlin." She also replaced Leslie Caron and alternated performances with Natalia Makarova in the national tour of "On Your Toes."
"I believe that after she left the Joffrey, she was undervalued in her assignments at American Ballet Theatre and afterward," Times dance critic Lewis Segal said Tuesday. "Her performance in 'On Your Toes' proved that her acting and dancing abilities were absolutely first-class. I never saw her give a bad performance."
Wright taught at CalArts in Valencia from 1985 to 1987, at Cal State Long Beach from 1987 to 1993 and at UCLA from 1993 to 1997.
She was artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer programs from 1997 to 2003.
In 1984, she married actor and American Ballet Theatre dancer George de la Pena. They had two children, Matthew of Iowa City, Iowa, and Alexander of Chevy Chase, Md.