Sean Lavery was one of New York City Ballet’s busiest and most acclaimed dancers before he was sidelined by a spinal tumor in 1986, just a year after he had made his Jacob’s Pillow debut. Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he began dance training at the age of ten with the Pennsylvania Ballet, and started performing with San Francisco Ballet by the time he was seventeen. After spending two years there and two more with the Frankfurt Opera Ballet, he joined New York City Ballet in 1977. He was swiftly promoted to Soloist and then Principal the very next year, and major roles were soon created on him by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. At the height of his career, he peformed Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de deux
on a 1985 Gala program at Jacob’s Pillow, partnering Lisa Hess. His dancing career ended after his spinal surgery the next year, but after a difficult rehabilitation, he returned to City Ballet as a top aide to Peter Martins, serving as a ballet master, coach, and administrator. He had been living in Palm Springs, California in recent years, where he died after a brief illness in February 2018 at age 61.
Source of Biography
Written by Norton Owen for Jacob's Pillow Remembers.