On January 17, 1920, one of American ballet's most celebrated dance actresses was born. Nora Kaye's father was an actor who'd worked under Konstantin Stanislavski; her earliest ballet teacher was Ballets Russes choreographer Michel Fokine. ("He was more interested in creating roles than in teaching class," she recalled in the February 1965 issue of Dance Magazine.)
Brief stints with Balanchine's short-lived American Ballet, on Broadway and at Radio City prefaced her joining American Ballet Theatre's corps for its 1940 inaugural season. She caught the eye of Antony Tudor (despite leaving his first rehearsal "screaming that she would never work with that Englishman again," according to Tudor) and became an overnight sensation after leading the premiere of his psychological Pillar of Fire in 1942.
"Tudor changed my whole life—the way I moved and the way I thought," she said. "He told me what to think and what to read, even what to wear and what to eat. We were inseparable. Sometimes he could really make me feel miserable; he could almost be sadistic. Yet he could be wonderful, too." Their work came to define the "Theatre" part of ABT's name.