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Reflections of a mid-century studentatm711 on NYC and studying dance mid 20th century

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#1 Leigh Witchel

Leigh Witchel

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 11:42 PM

I was a teen-ager when I started ballet lessons in New York in 1944; all it took for me to start was one performance of Ballet Theatre at the old Metropolitan Opera House on 39th Street. (I have written in more detail of that performance on my Blog "Ruminations".) My very first teacher was Lisan Kay who taught at Ballet Arts in Carnegie Hall. At the time she was a partner of Yeichi Nimura; she would shortly have a featured role in the musical "Lute Song". Ballet Arts was run by the indomitable Virginia Lee. A card of ten lessons was purchased for $15 and she would dutifully check off each lesson as you entered. A few of my friends were studying with George Chaffee and I left Ballet Arts to join them. Part of the reason was financial. For $20 a month I could take as many classes as I wanted. I stayed with him (and his assistant, the very capable Adelaide Vernon) for four years. I found I much preferred a small studio and small classes--most of the time a dozen students.

The rest including studying with Ben Harkavy and Bob Joffrey.

For more of atm711's recollections please visit her blog Ruminations, which is part of this bulletin board.

I also studied at Ballet Arts, but four decades further on. It had moved from Carnegie Hall across the street to City Center's studios. If you've ever seen a well-circulated photo of the Ballets Russes working on Balanchine's Danses Concertantes, I believe we studied in that same studio at City Center on the fifth floor. By then, class cards were about $80 for ten lessons. I can no longer remember the exact amount, and it's only 20 years. Thank you, atm711 for your clear recollections!

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