Black Actors in Italy: Van Aikens

Van AikensVan Aikens had a very brief Italian films career in the very early sixties, appearing in a handful of peplums.

  • Rivolta degli schiavi, La (1960), aka Revolt of the Slaves (as Iface)
  • Barabba (1961), aka Barabbas
  • Gordon, il pirata nero (1961), aka The Black Pirate
  • Maciste contro il vampiro (1961), aka Goliath and the Vampires (as Amahl)

There was also a Win Van Aikens who appeared in Vittorio Sala’s I Don Giovanni della Costa Azzurra in 1962. I’d suspect they’re the same person. I have found reference to a Van Aikens who was a dancer in Los Angeles, and it could be that they’re the same person…?

(picture is of Van Aikens in Maciste contro il vampiro (thanks to High Plains Drifter on the European Film Review board for this))

About Matt Blake

The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.
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8 Responses to Black Actors in Italy: Van Aikens

  1. mattblake says:

    This has got to be the same person as Vanoy Aikens, a dancere with the Katherine Dunham company, who performed on broadway in the late 40s and 50s.

  2. mattblake says:

    A bio for Vanoye Aikens… same guy:

    VANOYE AIKENS claims to be a native of “Bip-Bap,” Georgia. While in his late teens, Mr. Aikens visited New York and, at the advice of Lenwood Morris,auditioned to be in the Katherine Dunham Company. Although not present during his three day audition, Miss Dunham received daily reports from Lavinia Williams and Syvilla Fort that there was “one” potential star. The rest is history. Mr. Aikens was accepted into the company and toured with the Original Dunham Dance Company to most major countries in Europe including France, Germany, England, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Holland.

    He performed as Miss Dunham’s leading man and their international tours were as big a hit in South America as they were in Europe. Their travels to South America included Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina to name a few. They also had a brief residency in Port au Prince Haiti. During the span of his dance career, Mr. Aikens collectively toured well over 50 countries combined. When the Dunham Company finally disbanded, Mr. Aikens began a brief but fulfilling career as a vocalist and actor. He had bit parts in “Revolt of the Slaves” starring Rhonda Fleming, and “Cleopatra” starring Elizabeth Taylor. He also worked with Lola Falano in Rome, Italy during her television broadcast of “Studio One.”

    After his performance career, he was invited to work for Kursverksamhaten in Stockholm, Sweden at the University of Upsula. He earned the title of “Lektor” while teaching at Danshogskolan, and held concurrent teaching positions during the summer in Germany and Spain. Professor Aikens returned to the United States in the mid 80′s and is one of the primary master instructors who teaches at the International Dunham Technique Seminar is East St. Louis, IL.

    He brings his profoundly enriching talents and sets the stage for dynamic and fulfilling Dunham Technique training and development each year. His anecdotal teaching methodology enhances the classroom setting while providing clarity, warmth and humor.

  3. mattblake says:

    And a link to Van Aikens performing in the 40s on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM8xp_1R9Ew

  4. Lars Fager says:

    Great to anknowledge this man and artist. I was taking classes for Mr. Aikens during his Sweden years in Stockholm, Danshögskolan in the early eigthies. Very glad to have had the experience of his teaching. And still to day as an actor I meet people, like former pupils Royal Opera Ballet, Stockholm, who remember this handsome and really nice man well.
    As well as my own classmates from the time.
    I saw the Cleopatra movie in a Cinema in Stockholm 1981 and recognized Mr. Aikens in the film. I had no idea he was in it? And the next day I mentioned it to him.
    I had a lot of respect – he was very serious in his work – of course(!) and I didin´t know if he really liked me or not ( a tiny blond boy, very far from a Dunham dancer. My rescue was the drummer during class – another American, I belive – Rupert Clemmendore who gave me a lot of attention and laughed at me. And I with him.
    Anyway Mr. Aikens went slightly embarrased by it, but I guess also flattered!
    Glad to have met him.

  5. Linda Sjöborg says:

    Hello Van..

    I´m Linda, your student from 1977 in Danshögskolan Stockholm.

    I wonder how you are?

    I´m fine and I´m still working with dance in Stockholm.

    I would appreciate if I heard from You

    Regards

    Linda

  6. Lars Fager says:

    Lars Fager :Great to anknowledge this man and artist. I was taking classes for Mr. Aikens during his Sweden years in Stockholm, Danshögskolan in the early eigthies. Very glad to have had the experience of his teaching. And still to day as an actor I meet people, like former pupils Royal Opera Ballet, Stockholm, who remember this handsome and really nice man well.
    As well as my own classmates from the time.
    I saw the Cleopatra movie in a Cinema in Stockholm 1981 and recognized Mr. Aikens in the film. I had no idea he was in it? And the next day I mentioned it to him.
    – Mr. Aikens went slightly embarrased, but I guess, also flattered!
    Glad to have met him.

  7. Hello ! I was also a student at Danshogskolan , in Stockholm , Sweden . Vanoye Aikens was my teacher for 3 years . I know live and teach dance here in USA , for the last 20 years or so … I look back at those years and his classes with great findness and appreciation !!! And would love to know where Vanoye is know and what he is up to .

  8. Gary Smith says:

    Van was a dear friend of film composer James Bernard and through him I met Van many times when I lived in Los Angeles. He was in
    so many European-filmed epics that he couldn’t even remember them all. I have spotted him in Cleopatra (he plays two parts), Sodom
    and Gomorrah (as a specialty dancer), Revolt of the Slaves, Barabbas, Goliath and the Vampires, and Joseph and His Brethren. I gave him a lobby card I had of him in Goliath and the Vampires and he flipped when he saw it.

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