ALLEGRA FULLER SNYDER
August 28, 1927 - July 11, 2021
It is with great sadness that we are writing to inform you of the death of Allegra Fuller Snyder on July 11 at the age of 93 at her apartment in Stroudwater Lodge, Westbrook, Maine.
The daughter of R. Buckminster Fuller and Anne Hewlett Fuller, Allegra was co-founder and long-time President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute and Professor Emerita of Dance Ethnology, and former Chair of the Department of Dance at UCLA. Following the death of her father in 1983, Allegra took a significant role in determining a path to preserve Bucky’s work and promote its relevance going forward. Through many lectures and conferences, she challenged people to think independently and follow their unique experiences in life, by championing Bucky’s refrain to “do their own thinking”—and “do what needs to be done” in support of Spaceship Earth. To ensure the ability of future generations to study her father’s life and ideas, Allegra shepherded the transfer of Bucky’s extensive and unique archive to Stanford University Libraries. She remained actively involved in the Institute for many decades as a passionate and articulate educator on the principles of her father’s work.
Born in Chicago in 1927, Allegra’s primary education was at the Dalton School in New York City, a learning experience she cherished. “I went to an extraordinary school… founded on the educational thinking of Helen Parkhurst and the principles of John Dewey’s ‘learn by doing’”.
It was at Dalton that Allegra came to the world of dance, which would form the basis of her professional and artistic career. “I came to dance… because it was one of those natural, first, non-verbal responses to life – after walking, almost always comes dancing.” Among her classmates, and lifelong friends were Nancy Lassalle and Marian Seldes.
Prior to attending Bennington College, she spent summers at the School of American Ballet under the leadership & direction of George Balanchine. On leave from Bennington, 1949-51, she worked at the International Film Foundation in NYC. On graduation day from Bennington College in 1951, Allegra married Robert Snyder, who won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 1950 for his film The Titan: Story of Michelangelo.
After the birth of her two children, Alexandra Fuller Snyder and Jaime Lawrence Snyder, Allegra and Bob drove west to Los Angeles. With her children in school, Allegra enrolled at UCLA, earning a Master’s in Dance in 1967, and soon joined the faculty there. She retired from UCLA in 1991. During her long career at UCLA, Allegra developed many curriculum innovations concerning dance, ethnography, culture, art, and film. In addition to serving as Chair of the Department of Dance at UCLA, Allegra helped develop and direct the creation of the World Arts and Cultures interdisciplinary program which became the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance in 1995. She researched and lectured widely around the world, including a year in England on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1983-84. In the 1970s she lectured in Mumbai and conducted fieldwork in Kerala, India, also under the Fulbright banner.
She was long active with the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD) and served as an expert to the National Endowment of Arts, Dance Programs. Snyder was a visiting professor of performance studies at New York University from 1982-83. She also taught at the California Institute of the Arts and at Naropa Institute.
Allegra was keenly interested in the use of film in documenting and advocating for the appreciation of dance in all cultures. Her film work ranged from a historical documentary about the Weimar pioneer of modern dance, Mary Wigman, to a performance film about the Israeli/Adenite dancer, Margalit Oved. With her husband, Robert Snyder, she made an ethnographic film about the Philippine dance troupe Bayanihan. She was also a core consultant on DANCING, an eight-hour series for PBS.
As an active teacher, colleague, and mentor, Allegra assembled a diverse coterie of lifelong friends. For many years she led a group of students to attend the annual ritual of the Yaqui Easter ceremonies in Tuscon, Arizona. This was also a journey in which she included her family and friends.
Allegra enjoyed and often participated in the growth of her two grandchildren, Olivia Allegra May and Rowan Keith May, and of her two step-grandchildren, Mira Kennedy and Elizabeth Demaray. Allegra’s husband, Robert Snyder, died in 2004. After 55 years in Southern California, Allegra packed her bags and moved back home to New York City. She spent eight years living in Murray Hill fully engaged in New York dance and culture, as well as reconnecting with life-long friends and family. Throughout her life, she spent many summers on Bear Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine.
(With thanks to the Snyder family)