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.
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
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.