3/25/24 O&A NYC IN MEMORARIUM: Lorraine Graves

By Walter Rutledge

Dancer, and teacher Lorraine Graves passed away on March 21, 2024, at the young age of 66. Graves started dancing at the age of 8 in the hometown of Norfolk, Virginia. She began her training at the Academy of the Norfolk Ballet (under the direction of the late Gene Hammett) and made her performing debut with the Norfolk Civic Ballet. As a teenager Graves she spent summers in New York City studying dance at the Joffrey Ballet and the prestigious School of American Ballet (New York City Ballet).Graves joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) in 1978 after earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ballet with Distinction from Indiana University at Bloomington where she completed her course of studies in just three years. She quickly rose through company ranks and became a principal dancer in 1979. After only three years her attention to detail, natural leadership style and impeccable technique made her a perfect fit for company Ballet Mistress.

Graves’ performance credits with DTH included Giselle, Firebird, Footprints Dressed in Red, The River, Toccata E Due Canzoni, Etosha, Serenade, The Four Temperaments, Agon, Allegro Brillante, and the role of the Siren in George Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son. She also had leading roles in Frederic Franklin’s stagings of Pas de Dix, Prince Igor and Scheherazade and Arthur Mitchell’s Rhythmetron, Holberg Suite and Fete Noire. Television credits include the role of Myrta in NBC’s airing of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Creole Giselle; the Princess of Unreal Beauty in the PBS production of John Taras’ The Firebird; and the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Two of the roles that I personally thought showcased her commanding stage presence were Myrtha Queen of the Willis (Giselle) and The Woman in Green (Dougla). She turned her height (5’10”) into an advantage. 

Ms. Graves’ guest appearances include performances with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concert Series, The Norfolk Civic Ballet, The River City Ballet, The Northwest Florida Ballet, and with the Virginia Ballet Theatre at the 1996 International Azalea Festival and Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 30th Anniversary Celebration at New York’s City Center.

In 1995 Graves was diagnosed with Lupus, which eventually became career altering. She would go on to become a much sort after teacher at such renowned institutions the North Carolina School of the Arts, The Governor’s School for the Arts in Virginia, The Virginia School of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA., The Cornish Institute in Seattle, WA., the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts, DTH’s Kennedy Residency Program (now the Pre-Professional Program), the Virginia Ballet Theatre, the Flint Institute of Music, and the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association (SERBA).

She was a permanent guest faculty for the Virginia School of the Arts, Master Teacher on the faculty at Dance Theatre of Harlem, guest teacher for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and lead adjudicator for the West Virginia Dance Festival. Ms. Graves returned to her hometown and joined the faculty of the Governor’s School of the Arts.  Her additional civic commitments included Chairman of the Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities, a member of the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force, the Links, Inc., Todd Rosenlieb Dance Company Board member and is Secretary/Treasurer of her family’s business, Graves Funeral Home.

Lorraine Graves Honored

Visitation will be held on Thursday, March 28th, 2024, from 2:00 to 6:00pm at the Graves Funeral Home (1631 Church St, Norfolk, VA 23504). A funeral service will be held on Friday, March 29th, 2024, at 11:00 AM at the Graves Funeral Home Chapel (1631 Church St, Norfolk, VA 23504). Family and friends are welcome to leave their condolences on her memorial page at https://www.echovita.com/us/obituaries/va/norfolk/lorraine-graves-17820058


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