Paul Russell

Hartford Ballet: Principal (1968-1970)
Dance Theatre of Harlem (1971-1977)
Scottish National Ballet (1977, 1980)
San Francisco Ballet (1981-1986)

Virginia Johnson and Paul Russell in "Allegro Brillante".
Russell with Virginia Johnson in Allegro Brillante.

Born in Mineola, Texas on March 2, 1947, Paul Russell trained at the Dance Theatre of Harlem School and the School of American Ballet, both in New York City. Before beginning this ballet training, he attended Pasadena City College and UCLA. He first performed with the Hartford Ballet and the following year, Russell joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem. He moved to Leningrad in 1977 to train with Natalya Dudinskaya and soon after, performed the role of Siegfried with the Scottish National Ballet. He is thought to be the first Black man to perform this role in a full-length production of Swan Lake. He danced with San Francisco Ballet starting in 1981 until his retirement in 1986/7, after which he became the artistic director of the American Festival Ballet of Boise, Idaho.

Russell performed in the film A Piece of the Action and the television show Monte Carlo Show.
His repertoire, with performances met with rave reviews, included Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, and Louis Johnson’s Forces of Rhythm. With the Scottish Ballet, he performed as Siegfried in Swan Lake as well as in The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, Napoli, Cinderella, and Giselle.
Russell choreographed and taught ballet at San Francisco Ballet and the Dance Theatre of Harlem school, among others, and remained in his role of director at the American Festival Ballet of Boise until his death. He also “participated in lectures and demonstrations to introduce black artists to white audiences.”

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