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Dancer and Choreographer Donald Saddler Dies at 96

The “Wonderful Town” choreographer and Broadway dancer leaves behind a legacy of awards and a fidelity to period movement.

Donald Saddler
Donald Saddler

Donald Saddler, a Broadway dancer, choreographer and two-time Tony winner, died at the Actors Home in New Jersey on November 4. He was 96.

Saddler was an original member of the American Ballet Theatre prior to serving in World War II. After coming home from war, he immediately returned to the stage, but this time on Broadway instead of ballet. He appeared in High Button Shoes (1947), Dance Me a Song (1950) and Bless You All (1950) before receiving his first choreography assignment for Wonderful Town (1953).

His Broadway credits after that included Milk and Honey (1961), the 1971 hit revival of the 1920s chestnut No, No, Nanette, The Robber Bridegroom in 1975 and the 1983 revival of the Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes. His last Broadway credit came in 2001, when he played Theodore Whitman in the revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies, at the age of 82.

Over the course of his career, Saddler earned Tony Awards for Wonderful Town and No, No, Nanette and nominations for Much Ado About Nothing (1973) and On Your Toes (1983). He also received Drama Desk nominations for the 1975 musical Good News and The Robber Bridegroom.

In addition to the accolades, Saddler will be remembered for the thoroughness he brought to his dances, which he discussed with the Toronto Star in 1991.

“I don’t have a set vocabulary of movement; I do new research for every show because I believe you must recreate a period with respect and love,” he said. “Just as we take popular dancing seriously today, it was taken equally seriously by the people who danced it then—each show is like taking a journey to another time and place.”

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