CANTON -- Professional ballet and modern dancer in New York City, Europe, and Las Vegas in the 40s, 50s, and 60s; a highly acclaimed dance costume designer and fabricator; UCLA and East Coast dance teacher, writer, and co-author of "NO FIXED POINTS: Dance in the Twentieth Century;" former Canton Town and Village Historian; artist, son of a music teacher and a former Sheriff of St. Lawrence County, NY; called by some a "Renaissance Man," Malcolm J. McCormick, died Friday, December 29 in Syracuse. He was 90.
Born, October 30, 1927 in Gouverneur, Malcolm's two closest surviving relatives are first cousins once removed, David Barlow of Canton and James McCormick of California. Also, his beloved dog Willoughby is now being cared for by Tina D. Wood, who knew Malcolm as his rural USPS mail carrier.
Malcolm is predeceased by his mother, Eula Mildred McKenney, a piano teacher from Natural Dam, NY, his father, James F. McCormick elected St. Lawrence County Sheriff from Gouverneur, NY in the mid 1930s, and a brother James, who was a St. Lawrence University student killed as a WW II pilot. Malcolm's grandfather John McKenney was in the recreation/entertainment business, running a second floor roller skating rink next to Canton's popular Haven House Hotel (later known as The Harrington Hotel) on The Grasse River.
Malcolm's wishes were to thank a number of colleagues of the dance world and area friends, who he regarded as family: Magda Saleh, Kyra Lober, Amy Fisher, Janice Brown, Marilyn and Brad Mintener, Jeffrey Thayer, Nancy Reynolds, Chris Fox, Gerry Ducharme, Brian Staples, Kip Blanchard, Clay Talliaferro, Roger Bailey, Nancy and Cindy Barlow, David Barlow, Mark McMurray, Connie Meng, Nancy Zeckendorf, Carole Stretton Beldon, Jane Lammers, B.J. Wilkinson and more.
After earning a Canton High School Arts Diploma in the mid-1930s, Malcolm set out for New York City to dance at Radio City Music Hall and the New York City Ballet. He was trained in ballet in New York City and Paris and did his first costume designs for dance productions at The Metropolitan Opera while under contract as a dancer.
He became a member of the United Scenic Artists Union as a dancer. While continuing to perform over the next two decades, he became known as a specialist in costuming dancers in both ballet and modern dance companies. The Chujoy/Manchester Encyclopedia" credits Malcolm with having "a considerable influence on modern dance, scenically and in costuming." His designs were sought by the Alvin Alley Co., Pilobolus, The Limon Company, Murray Louis, as well as by many individual concert performers. Many of his designs were for ballet companies, such as The Pennsylvania Ballet, Northwest Pacific Ballet, and The Lincoln Center Repertory Company.
His costumes for the "Mary Stuart" production at the LCRC brought Malcolm the Billboard Critics' Award for "the most beautiful costumes of that Broadway season."
His 2003 Yale University Press published dance tome "NO FIXED POINTS" of over 900 pages co-authored with Nancy Reynolds was a 23-year-long labor of love collaboration. Ms. Reynolds recently complimented Malcolm: "It is no exaggeration to say that we made a very good team, complementing each others' areas of strengths and weaknesses."
During the Spring of 2017, Malcolm made a donation of 250 of his original framed costume design paintings to The National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. The colorful paintings, honoring Malcolm's contributions and talents as a dance costume designer and fabricator, are prominently displayed in a gallery at the museum where a public opening reception was to be held. Due to illness, Malcolm was not able to attend and make opening comments about his professional life in ballet and how the ballet dance style and method has changed over the years since he had retired as a dancer in the U.S. and abroad.
Some may say Malcolm had maverick ways about him. No one can deny two gracious and talented attributes of Malcolm J. McCormick were his magnificent gardening and his love for knitting. He rejoiced in giving a friend a scarf or sweater he created, or giving to many folks a summer armload of glads, peonies, or apples for pie baking from his Waterman Hill patch.
Malcolm will come to so many of us over and over as a happy memory for his generosities, his talents, and his observations.
A Spring Burial is being planned in Evergreen Cemetery, Canton.
Condolences can be shared by visiting www.lawrencefuneralhome.org
Malcolm’s care and arrangements are being handled by Lawrence Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Canton.