John Taras, 84; Choreographer and Ballet Master

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

John Taras, 84, internationally praised choreographer and ballet master for the New York City Ballet and others, died Friday at his New York City home of unspecified causes.

Born in New York into a family of Ukrainian descent, he began studying Ukrainian folk dance at age 9 and ballet at 16. Professionally, he danced for the Philadelphia Ballet and at the 1939 New York World’s Fair with dancers associated with George Balanchine, who would become his choreography mentor. He also danced for American Ballet Caravan, a predecessor of the New York City Ballet, and with the American Ballet Theatre.

As a choreographer, Taras created his own reputation with two ballets performed in Europe: “Designs with Strings,” danced by the Metropolitan Ballet in Edinburgh in 1948, and “Piege de Lumiere,” presented by the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas in Paris in 1952.

Over the years, Taras worked for such groups as the Paris Opera Ballet, the Berlin Ballet and Ballet Russe as well as the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet de Cuevas.