Three-time Tony-winning dancer, actor, and choreographer Hinton Battle passed away January 29 after a brief illness. He was 67. News of his passing was confirmed by his longtime collaborator and friend Debbie Allen, who wrote on Instagram: "Today, I honor Hinton Battle, my dear friend who left us to dance and sing in God’s Ensemble last night. He fought this battle to live and be creative impacting audiences and young people across the globe. Let us always hold him high in our hearts and in our mind’s eye and forever speak his name."
Born in West Germany to a U.S. Army officer and his wife, Mr. Battle showed a natural talent for movement from a young age, studying at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet for three years before receiving a scholarship to train at the School of American Ballet under George Balanchine.
At the age of 18, Mr. Battle made his Broadway debut as the original Scarecrow in The Wiz, receiving momentous acclaim for his energetically athletic dance style. He would later go on to work with some of the most influential choreographer in the industry, including Bob Fosse in the original production of Dancin' and Michael Bennett in the original production of Dreamgirls.
Mr. Battle received an impressive three Tony Awards for originating three vastly varied yet equally bombastic roles: in Sophisticated Ladies, The Tap Dance Kid, and Miss Saigon. He won Best Featured Actor in a Musical for all three roles, making him the most-awarded actor in the category's history.
On the road, Mr. Battle toured Dancin', Sophisticated Ladies, and The Tap Dance Kid across the country. Notably, he was also in the first national tour of Ragtime, where he starred as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in 1998.
As a choreographer, Mr. Battle staged the beloved musical episode of the TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Once More With Feeling." He also worked on the sitcoms Fired Up, Sister Sister, The Trouble with Normal, and The Boys. Mr. Battle also choreographed promotional videos for Warner Brothers, commercials for Coca-Cola, Chicago's The Millie hotel, and New York Top Appliances. He served as Associate Choreographer for the 65th and 66th Annual Academy Awards with Debbie Allen, as well as a choreographer for The Golden Globes.
Mr. Battle provided the eye-popping choreography for the Outkast led movie musical Idlewild, and collaborated with Wynton Marsalis for The Buddy Bolden Story, a feature film about the untold story of the man who created jazz in America.
On the small screen, as an actor, Mr. Battle starred in Shine, his one-man show presented at the HBO Aspen Comedy Arts Festival. His other TV appearances included The Kennedy Center's 25th anniversary; These Old Broads alongside Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins, Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor; and ABC/Disney's Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story, where Hinton served as a choreographer and co-star, playing legendary tap dancer Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. In 2006, he created a dance form called Swop (swing and hip-hop) for Dancing with the Stars, to high acclaim.
Off-Broadway, Mr. Battle served as the co-director and choreographer for Evil Dead The Musical. He also directed the stage musical Respect, which explored the fluctuating power of women from the 1900s to the 2007. In 2014, he returned to performance to star in the Off-Broadway premiere of Cindy: The Musical.
Perhaps his greatest joy, however, was the Hinton Battle Dance Academy (HBDA). Based in Japan, Mr. Battle and cofounder Yoshimoto Kogyo prepared students for successful careers in the entertainment industry and in life. The company shuttered in 2021.
In addition to his Tony triumvirate, Mr. Battle received the NAACP Image Award, the Midtown International Theatre Festival Award, the Fred Astaire Award, the Ira Aldridge Award, the Planet Connection Award, the 2012 Champion of the Arts Award from Big Boi’s “Antwan Patten” Big Kidz Foundation, and the Amas 2014 Rosie Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of extraordinary accomplishment in the theatrical arts.