Honoring the life of Rev. Dr. Mel A. Tomlinson

February 12th, 2019

Rev. Dr. Mel A. Tomlinson

We are saddened to inform you of the loss of Dr. Mel A. Tomlinson who journeyed to Memphis to perform in Nut Remix 2018, his last turn on the stage with the children who looked up to him as a mentor and hero.

Born one of six siblings in Raleigh, North Carolina, Mel Tomlinson became interested in dance after studying high school gymnastics. When he was 17, he began formal dance study at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Tomlinson received his B.F.A. degree in only two years, while he also toured as a principal dancer in Agnes De Mille's Heritage Dance Theatre and switched from a modern dance concentration to ballet. In 1974 he moved to New York to join the Dance Theater of Harlem (DTH), where his powerful build, crystalline articulation of line, and supple flexibility propelled him to soloist, most notably as the snake in Arthur Mitchell's "Manifestations" (1975). In 1976 he took a leave of absence to perform with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he took over the male role in Ailey's "Pas de Duke" with Judith Jamison and premiered the revival of Lar Lubovitch's "The Time Before the Time After" ("After the Time Before") with Sara Yarborough. Discouraged by the heavy touring responsibilities of the Ailey company, Tomlinson returned to the DTH in 1978 to perform principal roles in "Swan Lake" and "Scheherazade" . In 1981 he joined the New York City Ballet as its only African-American member. He was quickly promoted to the rank of soloist, and his performance in George Balanchine's "Agon" was called "dynamic and electric" by the NEW YORK TIMES. Tomlinson left that company in 1987 to join the faculty at the North Carolina School of Arts, and was enticed back to performing by NC Dance Theatre artistic director, Salvatore Aiello. In 1991 he left NCDT and joined the Boston Ballet as a dancer and master teacher in the CITYDANCE program, bringing classical dance to public school children in the Boston area.

His illustrious career spanned decades, and New Ballet was honored to have him as a guest teacher last summer and as a performer in Nut Remix.

We will always be grateful for his presence in our lives. Please watch this video of his time at New Ballet.

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