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Andre Van Damme


Dancer Andre Benoni Van Damme (December 16, 1919-February 3, 1989) was born in Belgium. He was admitted to the ballet company of the Royal Opera House of Brussels shortly after his 16th birthday. When his dance career was interrupted by military service, he struck a deal with officers that allowed him to continue rehearsals while discharging his army obligation. Van Damme was recalled to military service during the mobilization of 1939. When his country fell to the Nazis, the dancer joined the underground while continuing to perform.

Meanwhile, he had been named premier danseur ├ętoile by the ballet company, a title he cherished. Nevertheless, after the liberation of Europe post-war hardships took their toll. Van Damme and his family moved to America in 1947. They first settled in New York City, then were persuaded to move to West Virginia by John and Josephine Hiersoux, Charleston pianists. They told Van Damme a ballet school was for sale and convinced him a living could be made in the state, and he could rehearse and tour with the Hiersouxes.

Van Damme settled in Charleston in 1948 and opened his school, which he called the American Academy of Ballet. He founded the Charleston Ballet in 1956. Van Damme remained in Charleston until his death.

Written by Kay Michael