Following in the footsteps of Arthur Mitchell, Albert Evans was one of only two African-American principal dancers in the history of the New York City Ballet. As a principal, he danced a huge variety of roles, from classical to modern, from George Balanchine to Jerome Robbins to Christopher Wheeldon.
He joined in 1988 and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a soloist in 1991 and a principal in 1995. He retired during in 2010 with an emotional farewell performance, and had been serving since then as a ballet master at the company. "The entire New York City Ballet family is heartbroken by the loss of our beloved friend and colleague Albert Evans," said Peter Martins, the company's ballet master in chief. "Kind, warm, generous, and always a joy to be with, Albert is quite simply irreplaceable."
Evans was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and trained there as a youngster, at Terpsichore Expressions. In 1986, he was awarded a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet, NYCB's official school.
His more prominent roles in Balanchine ballets included the Cavalier in The Nutcracker and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, among many others. He had featured roles in Wheeldon's Polyphonia and Liturgy and he originated roles in a number of works by Martins, including his 1991 Sleeping Beauty, in which Evans danced Puss in Boots, and Romeo + Juliet, in which he played a commanding Prince of Verona.
"He had such a respect for the women he was dancing with," former soloist Tom Gold told The Washington Post. "His power was in his quietness." Gold described his former colleague's movement as "poetic and lyric, with a soulfulness. There was this light, soft quality to him."
Dancer and rising choreographer Justin Peck called Evans "such an incredible, luminous person. Albert always brought warmth, hospitality, enthusiasm, humour to any situation."
In addition to his dance roles, Evans choreographed several works, including Haiku, to music by John Cage, for New York City Ballet's 2002 Diamond Project, as well as a solo for NYCB principal Peter Boal in 2003, performed at the Joyce Theater.
Evans, who died following a short illness, also appeared in the 2002 Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of "New York City Ballet's Diamond Project: Ten Years of New Choreography."
Albert Evans, dancer and choreographer: born Atlanta, Georgia 29 December 1968; died New York 22 June 2015.