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Nanette Rohan Bearden, a noted dancer and choreographer, was born on Staten Island, New York, on January 20, 1927.

Nanette was also a model while pursuing her dance career. She was one of the first African-American fashion models to appear in commercial advertisements for a variety of products.

Nanette received training in Modern Dance and Jazz at the Martha Graham School & the Clark Center for Performing Arts.
She studied with Thelma Hill, James Truitte, Phil Black and Pepsi Bethel. She studied Ballet at Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook and at Ballet Arts with Nina Strogovina and Vincenzo Celli.

In 1975-76, she produced and directed the Broadway Dance Festival. Many companies benefited from the festival, including the Eleo Pomare Dance Company, Joan Miller/Chamber Arts Players, Charles Moore Dance Theatre, Pepsi Bethel Authentic Dance and the Jerry Ames Tap Dance Company.

In 1976, Nanette formed the Chamber Dance Group, a company of eight dancers whose repertoire consisted of excerpts from classical ballets, vignettes and works-in-progress. In 1977, the name of the Company was changed to Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theatre (NBCDT). An array of emerging young choreographers, including Fred Benjamin, Marla Bingham, Gary DeLoatch, Rael Lamb, Rick Odums, Walter Raines, Roumel Reaux, were given the opportunity to demonstrate their talents. As the Company grew, Nanette produced new works, many of which became classics, with such noted choreographers as Talley Beatty, George Faison, Louis Johnson, John Jones, Dianne McIntyre and Carmencita Romero.

Nanette also established a dance school in Manhattan that offered a Scholarship Career Training Dance Program. The school and the NBCDT won recognition for programs that offered minority dancers and choreographers the opportunity to develop their creative talents and showcase their work. Many of these gifted artists went on to have professional careers on the concert stage and Broadway.

Nanette married preeminent artist Romare Bearden in 1954. Romare and Nanette collaborated on ballets with Romare designing costumes for one production, as well as NBCDT logo. He also produced a limited edition lithograph whose sales helped finance the Company. In 1988, After her husband's death, Nanette established the Romare Bearden Foundation to honor his life and work.

Nanette Rohan Bearden dedicated her life to dance and the artists who perform it. The NBCDT disbanded upon her passing in 1996.

To keep her legacy alive, Sheila Rohan, one of Nanette's seven sisters, and also a dancer, revived the Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theatre in 2004.
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