Battle died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness, a representative for the actor confirmed to USA TODAY Wednesday. His rep added in an emailed statement that the actor’s family will not be disclosing an exact cause of death.
Born in West Germany, Battle displayed an early aptitude for the arts. After studying at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet, Battle received a scholarship to attend the School of American Ballet under the direction of famed choreographer George Balanchine, according to Playbill.
Battle made his Broadway debut in 1975 at the age of 18, starring as The Scarecrow in the original production of “The Wiz,” an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
Battle went on to appear in other Broadway productions such as “Dreamgirls,” “Sophisticated Ladies,” “The Tap Dance Kid” and “Miss Saigon,” with the latter three shows earning him a trio of Tony Awards for best featured actor in a musical, per Playbill.
The official X account for the Tony Awards shared a throwback clip of Battle in tribute to the late actor Tuesday. “His unparalleled talent and infectious energy will be deeply missed,” the post read. “But his legacy lives on in the hearts of all who were touched by his brilliance.”
Battle’s illustrious career went beyond the theater. He scored guest roles on TV series including “Touched by An Angel,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Smash.” On the big screen, Battle returned to the “Dreamgirls” universe in 2006, playing Wayne in the film adaptation starring Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Jamie Foxx.
In the dance world, Hinton worked as a choreographer on the 65th and 66th Academy Awards, the Outkast musical “Idlewild,” “Bolden,” and “Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story.” He also directed and choreographed the off-Broadway musicals “Respect,” “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” the stage production of “Evil Dead,” and “Sistas: The Musical.”
Battle’s friend, actress and dancer Debbie Allen, paid tribute to the actor in an Instagram post Tuesday. “Today I honor Hinton Battle, my dear friend who left us to dance and sing in God’s Ensemble last night,” Allen wrote. “He fought this battle to live and be creative impacting audiences and young people across the globe.”
Allen concluded: “Let us always hold him high in our hearts and in our mind’s eye and forever speak his name.”
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First appeared on www.usatoday.com