Dennis Wayne

Dennis Wayne was an over-achiever from the start, winning a crawling contest as one of 30 babies competing over a 100-foot course. Later, his dancing parents put together an acrobatic act, Taffy ’n’ Terry and Trio, with Dennis and his two older siblings. After he enrolled at New York’s High School for Performing Arts, he came under the guidance of modern dance teacher Norman Walker, who became an important mentor and offered him performing opportunities during his tenure as Director of Jacob’s Pillow (1975-79). Before Wayne was 20, he became a member of the Harkness Ballet, and he went on to dance principal roles with the Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. While at ABT, he decided to form his own troupe and enlisted the support of actress Joanne Woodward, whom he had befriended when he had a small role in one of her films, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973). Woodward reportedly invested at least $400,000 in the company and it performed in four successive Pillow seasons from 1974 through 1977. Its final Pillow season was filmed for a half-hour public television documentary entitled Just Call Us Dancers. After completing a successful two-week Paris engagement in 1980 (when he was favorably compared in the press to both Nureyev and Baryshnikov), he was in a serious car accident and was told he would never dance again. He proved those predictions wrong and continued performing sporadically through the 1990s. He spent most of his later years in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he died in October 2017 at age 72.
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