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Vanoye Aikens Dead: African-American Modern Dance Pioneer Dies At 96

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26th June 1948: American dancer, choreographer and stage producer Katherine Dunham dances with her lover, played by Vanoye Aikens, in a scene from her ballet 'L'Ag'ya' at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. Original Publication: Picture Post - 4572 - Miss Dunham's Witchery - pub. 1948 (Photo by Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images) | Getty

LOS ANGELES -- A star dancer for the great African-American choreographer Katherine Dunham has died.

Longtime friend Robert Wood says Vanoye (van-OY') Aikens died Saturday in Los Angeles at age 96.

Aikens toured more than 50 countries over two decades with Dunham and her company.

The Georgia native first arrived in New York City as a young Navy veteran with only $32 in his pocket, but by 1943, he was Dunham's principal partner. The troupe pioneered African-American modern dance from Broadway and Hollywood to top stages worldwide.

The company dissolved in 1963. Aikens performed as a singer and actor, scoring a small part in the movie "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor.

He settled in Sweden to teach, then moved to Los Angeles and helped Dunham recreate her dances for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.

Wood says Aikens will be buried in Jonesboro, Ga.

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