ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Roland Dupree, an internationally known choreographer and dancer, died of natural causes on June 21. The Albuquerque resident was 89.
Along with dancing and choreography, Dupree was a dance educator and the live-action model for Disney’s animated “Peter Pan” in 1953. He also was known for the “West Coast jazz” style of dance and was former owner of the Dupree Dance Academy in Los Angeles.
“Roland was one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen,” said Judy Larson, a business partner and friend. “We were watching some of the movies he was in and it was so fun to see him when he was so young. He never lost that positive attitude.”
Larson met Dupree nearly 40 years ago through her then-husband. From the start, the two developed a great friendship, which led to a business partnership with Dupree’s dance company.
“Roland would travel the country and teach a number of students,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see the outpouring from people. They are telling their stories about how Roland impacted their lives through dance.”
Dupree, born Roland Furtado on Sept. 20, 1925, in Fall River, Mass., was an only child. His first language was French, but he learned English and became an all-American talent and the family bread-winner at a young age.
After taking dance classes in his small town, and starting to stand out in local performances and venues, his family picked up and moved to Hollywood, where he quickly became part of the “studio system” and was given contracts – and a new stage name – with Universal Studios and MGM.
Dupree starred in roles opposite Shirley Temple and stood out in featured roles in films with Jimmy Stewart, Donald O’Connor, Ann Miller, Dorothy Lamour and Bing Crosby. He built a reputation as a professional with rare talent, particularly in tap dance.
Larson said Dupree became a choreographer and taught dancer Juliette Prowse, ice skater and dancer Peggy Fleming and ’80s dance-craze “Flashdance” dance double Marine Jahan.
Dupree lived in New Mexico for nearly 15 years. He moved back to Albuquerque in December after four years in Kona, Hawaii.
Larson said while he lived in Corrales, Dupree spent several years organizing, choreographing and performing for seniors in retirement, care and hospital facilities with his Albuquerque dance troop, the Sophisticated Ladies.
“When he moved back in December, he took a break from doing so much,” she said. “He was always in good spirits and was able to lead such a wonderful life. I’m going to miss him. He’s inspired me to be more positive in everything I do.”
Dupree is survived by Judy Larson, his adopted sister; Cory Lindquist, his nephew; Joy Holland Cesca, his niece; and Bob Cesca, his nephew-in-law.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Daniels Family Funeral Home, Sara Road Chapel, 4310 Sara Road SE, Rio Rancho. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested for the Watermelon Mountain Ranch pet rescue organization.