Clark Tippet (1954-1992) was born to dance. Starting ballet study at the age of five, he rapidly danced his way from Parsons, KS to New York City by the age of 11, where Tippet’s life passion and artistic trajectory were sealed. The seventh in a family of eleven children, at age 11 Clark received a scholarship to the prestigious Thalia Mara’s National Academy of Ballet. He began dancing for the American Ballet Theatre at age 18, became a Soloist for ABT in 1975 and was promoted to Principal Dancer by age 21 in 1976, a role he would carry throughout his time with ABT.
Tippet was both an unusually robust dancer as well as a creative choreographer. His dancing was known for its zest, strong dramatic presences, and theatricality. His versatility made him a compelling and credible in a wide range of roles, from the pyrotechnical Prince Sigfried in Swan Lake, to the fast paced, sleazy demeanor of the second male lead in Twyla Tharp’s Push Comes to Shove, to the somber leading male role of Oedipus in Glen Tetley’s Sphinx, and the evil fairy, Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty. His early repertory for ABT also included Albrecht in Giselle, the Nutcracker-Prince in The Nutcracker, and leading roles in The Leaves Are Fading and Voluntaries.
In 1978, Tippet took a leave of absence from ABT to dance with other companies including the Maryland Ballet, where he created the role of the Psychiatrist in Equus; the Bat-Dor Dance Company of Israel and the West Australian Ballet Company in Perth. Successfully battling a drug problem, he returned in 1982 to ABT to resume his role as principal dancer, performing in ballets by some of the most renowned choreographers of the day, including Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Martine van Hamel, David Gordon and David Parsons.
These years at ABT featured Tippet as Anastasia’s Husband in Anastasia, the High Brahmin in La Bayadère, the Dancing Master in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s production of the full-length Cinderella, He Wore a White Tie in Dim Lustre, Hilarion in Giselle, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, and Carabosse and the English Prince in The Sleeping Beauty. He created King David in Martine van Hamel’s Amnon V’Tamar, the leading male role in David Gordon’s Field, Chair and Mountain, leading roles in Interludes, and N. Y. Export: Op. Jazz, Twyla Tharp’s Bach Partita. He was also featured in David Gordon’s Murder and Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Requiem, and the leading male role in David Parsons’ pas de deux, Walk This Way.
Tippet came to choreography in the mid-1980s, producing works for ABT and for the Pacific Northwest Ballet of Seattle and the Kansas City Ballet. The New York Times described his “Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1,” as “downright terrific” and declared him one of the most promising ballet choreographers of that decade. Tippet’s works for ABT also included S.P.E.B.S.Q.S.A (The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America), Rigaudon, Some Assembly Required, and Enough Said.