Robert Ivey, a distinguished dancer, choreographer and artistic director long in Charleston died Friday after a long illness.
Born in Australia in the 1930s, Robert Ivey came to the United States as a high school student following the death of his parents.
Founder and artistic director of the Robert Ivey Ballet and director at the Robert Ivey Ballet Studio, he studied ballet at the American Ballet Theatre School while attending Columbia University in New York as a pre-med student in the 1950s, eventually earning a degree in radiology before turning to dance full time. Ivey later would study at the Ballet Arts School in Carnegie Hall.
His professional credits included major roles on Broadway and in Europe — among them the New York and London productions of “West Side Story” — and his work earned numerous grants and awards. Ivey was a member of the Swedish State Theatre and Royal Norwegian Ballet for seven years, studied dance in Russia and pantomime in Poland, and performed on European tours with such stars as E. G. Marshall, Sada Thompson, Ester Rolle, and Liv Ullmann.
Ivey had served as dancer and choreographer in residence for the Brevard Music Center and for the Spoleto Festival USA. He was a past president of the Charleston Area Arts Council and a professor of dance in the Fine Arts Department at the College of Charleston.
Colleagues said Ivey’s influence is felt widely in Charleston area artistic circles, and that his example would endure.
“The biggest thing I would say about Bob is that it is a huge loss to the Lowcountry, and that he will be sorely missed by a lot of the people in the arts, not only in the world of just dance, but all over the United States,” said colleague and friend Jill Eathorne Bahr of the Charleston Ballet Theatre. “He has taught many young dancers a love of dance he loved so much himself.
“More than anything, he gave to people who did not understand dance a love and enjoyment of it that sometimes is even missing in mentors and teachers in the profession. He was a very enthusiastic coach and had a lot followers. The dance world itself is tremendously small; everybody knows everybody. He touched a great many people and (his passing) will be known everywhere. ”
Winner of the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission for excellence in the Arts, Ivey directed and choreographed productions for the College of Charleston’s Center Stage while also directing productions for the Robert Ivey Theatre Series, Charleston Opera Company, East Cooper Theatre, the Footlight Players Theatre and the Front and Center Players at the Jewish Community Center.
Through the years, Ivey helmed numerous musicals for the Piccolo Spoleto Theatre Fringe while also coordinating the Piccolo Spoleto Dance Series.
Ivey, one time National Artistic Director for Don Davis Impresario Europe Tours, traveled to Colombia, South America in October of 1986 to act as the dance consultant for Incolballet, the National Dance Company, a post sponsored by Partners of the Americas in Washington, D.C.
In 1995 and 1998, Ivey was invited to choreograph and stage productions for the New World School of the Arts in Miami, Fla., and in January of 1995, he directed Franklin Ashley’s “The Delta Dancer” for Premiere Theatre.
In recent years, Ivey was an artistic director for the South of Broadway Theatre Company and also directed and choreographed “Many Moons,” the first opera to be performed at the College of Charleston.
“In our experience working with him, we found him to be one of the most generous, hardworking members of Charleston’s arts and cultural community, making enormous contributions to the quality of life in the Lowcountry,” said friend and collaborator Ellen Dressler Moryl, director of the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs. “Robert was a wonderful educator in the world of dance. He was a master teacher and inspired countless young dancers to apply themselves to achieving excellence in that discipline. He also worked with local theater companies to produce many fine Broadway shows and musical productions which thoroughly entertained large audiences, bringing joy to all who attended.”
Funeral services will be announced later.