Boston Ballet and the dance community mourn the loss of Samuel Kurkjian, former principal dancer, ballet master, first resident choreographer, colleague and friend. Boston Ballet will dedicate their opening night of The Nutcracker, on November 29 2013, to Samuel.
Kurkjian was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He joined Boston Ballet in 1968 as a principal dancer and ballet master and became the Company's first resident choreographer. He created numerous works for Boston Ballet, including Speed Zone, Chopin Variations and Debussy Suites. Sam won the first Vestris Prize Competition for Choreography. In 1970, WGBH-TV produced a national telecast of Kurkjian's Peter and the Wolf, with the Boston Pops under the baton of Arthur Fiedler. Sam choreographed a children's musical, We Live in the City, at Tufts University Arena Theatre. He also taught at Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Among his accomplishments, Sam founded his own company, Boston Repertory Ballet. He later moved to Switzerland and joined Basel Ballet as a ballet master. He was also a long time faculty member of Walnut Hill School for the Arts, where he staged their annual The Nutcracker, a production very close to the early versions of the ballet that E. Virginia Williams staged for Boston Ballet.
Sam was a dedicated and respected teacher who taught countless students, many of whom went on to dance professionally or lead their own companies and schools. A very talented choreographer, Sam had deep respect for George Balanchine and his work. Sam was also an accomplished pianist.
Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen notes "Sam was a very dear friend for many years and he was a huge part of Boston Ballet's history. It is rare to encounter someone with such deep passion and integrity towards dance and music and Sam loved both tremendously. He was an inspirational teacher who influenced the lives of so many."
Antonio Viva, Head of School, Walnut Hill School for the Arts stated "Those who were lucky enough to experience Sam's warmth, his talent, and his love for his students and his art, realize what a loss this is for our community and the world of dance."
Sam is dearly missed by Mikko Nissinen, his friends and family, Boston Ballet family, the Boston dance community and his students, and friends from the Leonard Florence Center for Living.
According to Sam's wishes, no funeral will be held. To permanently honor Mr. Kurkjian's memory and his contributions to the dance community, Boston Ballet has established and endowed the Samuel Kurkjian Fund for New Choreography. Contributions to the Fund may be sent care of Boston Ballet, attention Ilisa Hurowitz, 19 Clarendon Street, Boston MA 02116.
Boston Ballet gratefully acknowledges the following institutional partners:
State Street Corporation, 2013 Presenting Sponsor, The Nutcracker, London Tour
The Boston Foundation
Massachusetts Cultural Council