dancer100

Looking for information on Maria Swoboda!!!!!

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Hi! I am trying to find out more information about Maria Swoboda. Her name before she married was Maria Yurieva. Perhaps you may know of her husband, Vecheslav Swoboda. I have a scrapbook that I believe was her's and wanted to learn more about her. I pretty much all I could find on the internet about her was the info on http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html...75BC0A961948260

I would love to hear any personal stories or information you have about her. I love learning about ballerinas from years ago. Thank you so much!

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What a rush of memories the name brought back!

I studied with Maria Swoboda in NYC from 1953 until early sixties, at the Ballet Russe School on W 54th (near 7th Ave.).

She was a caring teacher, with a no-nonsense approach to teaching and life. She was not particularly intellectual in methodology, but made clear to every student what she expected of each in class.

The carriage of arms she taught in all combinations was particularly challenging (in that it avoided the conventional wind-milling arms) and promoted attention to epaulement.

Irina Koutchoubey, who worked as an administrator for Denham, told me she had seen Mme Swoboda’s debut at sixteen (she was then Maria Yurieva) at the Bolshoi in Moscow.

I asked her for a photo once. It was a glossy 8x10 probably from Chicago. She wore a voluminous white tutu and was on pointe in a sort of allonge/penche fourth arabesque.

Sadly, I’ve lost it.

A few of us would go out for dinner with her mid-week when she stayed in a small apt. in the area before she left for Lakewood on week-ends. I have fond memories of some small Italian restaurants in the area of the school, as well as (rarely) the Russian Tea Room on 57th st..

Since we shared upbringing in the Orthodox church (I am Greek Orthodox) she had one or two times invited me to her Lakewood home for Easter midnight service followed by dinner. Her dinner guests included Alexandra Danilova, who also lived in Lakewood.

While the dinner group was large –mainly Russians save for Ms Twysden, Danilova’s companion- I only remember Danilova, a real thrill for me.

Maria Swoboda was a gracious hostess and an excellent cook.

I believe Roni Mahler has done interviews with Mme Swoboda that can be found in the NY Public Library Oral History files.

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oh yes.

i did a couple of classes with her only on one of my first trips to new york before going to live there, since my first ballet teacher had her as a ballet mistress with the ballet russe in the 1950s.

i don't recall a lot but i seem to remember that either on that day or every day (can't remember which) they did the same barre all the time, and that she made sure to place my friends and i behind people that we could follow.

she reminded me of my little italian grandmother, gray hair back in a bun and a nondescript black dress. but then i remember her trying to encourage us to move better across the floor by going to where we would end up and yelling "come on, you old ladies!!!!!".

i thought she was great.

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Thank you so much for your memories and recollections. I love hearing these stories. Unfortunately she is not alive today, but her spirit and memories live on in balletomanes such as yourself. I think it is so important to learn about what you do, that is why I lOVE learning about ballet history since I am a dancer and balletomane myself. Thank you so much and please add more information you can recall! The smallest tidbit about her classes, personality, and dancing intrigues me!

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A reader who wishes to be known as Hannah sent this reminiscence. I had offered to forward it to dancer100 by e-mail, but as I was reading it, I thought others would enjoy this vivid portrait as much as I did. Hannah graciously agreed to let me post it.

Thank you, Hannah. :lol:

Maria Yurieva Swoboda was one of the great ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo - and the greatest teacher I have ever had, or had the privilege to meet. I have studied with many, many world class teachers since that time, in many genres of dance and in many schools...but even all these years later, she remains absolutely at the very top.

When I met her, Madam Swoboda seemed ancient - she was probably in her 60's at the time. She divided her time between Lakewood, NJ, and NYC - and in between founded the Swoboda School of Ballet in Spring Lake, NJ. There, she gave professional level classes to local girls.

At the time we were too young to truly understand her true greatness, but we understood through her regal bearing that she was a presence to be reckoned with. All dressed in black, with a tight white chignon, lovely perfume and long red nails, Madam Swoboda was the real deal. She was the consummate, quintessential professional teacher. Truly Old School, she expected nothing less than perfection from her students - and we delivered - we did not feel we had a choice.

There were some students couldn't handle her perfectionist nature, and left her dancing school for more forgiving, American-style teachers. She did have a tendency to critique a bit harshly, and it was hard on some of us - but she explained that she only did this to the students she loved the most.

Madam Swoboda's barre was fixed...which made it easy to remember but extremely difficult to execute perfectly. Every muscle...every nuance...every angle...had a purpose and a plan...and you had to remember a million of them to please her. There is a reason that her students - wherever they are and however old they are - from the great Roni Mahler on down the line - are captivating dancers. She taught the mechanics of dance as if it were a science - but then... then...also...

The drama of dance. Madam Swoboda never lost sight of the fact that ballet is theater. She gave us Russian style character classes that came directly from the Ballet Russes. She taught us how every inflection of the hand, foot, finger, head and face was an expression that had to be projected all the way to the last seat in the balcony. Character classes with her were a treat, because we began to understand that her method transcended technique. At the time, it was a revelation. :-)

Once we mastered easy jumping and turning techniques (not one step faster than she wanted you to go), then she started teaching us fabulous sections of choreography - from Bolshoi to Balanchine - in her special way. It was at this point that she set us free to do explosive jumps and turns. She taught us "babies" (what she called us) to make spectacular leaps even more spectacular,.She showed us how to turn endless, perfect pirouettes and fouettes. She gave us the go-ahead to infuse our technique with passion.

There's so much more to tell, dancer100. There were full-blown ballet performances in Asbury Park's amazing old Convention Hall with stars of the Harkness Ballet...as well as in the Spring Lake Community House theater - a tiny, historic jewel-box of a venue. We "babies" performed with stars - and we owed it all to her. Her stars taught us how to apply stage make-up and change quickly between scenes.

She gave elaborate "Christmas parties" for her students, at which we did skits and ate "forbidden" food...and we were mesmerized by her incredible sense of style. Because when she was not in the classroom, she was different. Elegant. Inviting. Warm, even.

To Madam Swoboda, I owe a lifelong love of dance, and the confidence that even now, I can hold my own in almost any kind of dance class. She will always hold a special place in my heart and in my memory.

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I find it amusing that her obituary states:

"(she) habitually refused to disclose her age--was believed to be 86" which leaves her birth year 1922...

However, she:

"entered the Bolshoi Theatre at age 15. Left Russia after the revolution of 1917 and danced with own group through Balkan countries, France, Germany, Italy" (Chujoy, 1949.)

In 1937 she opened her school---at age 15?.

Sorry--my mistake---I just noticed that the obit is from 1987..... :lol:

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Madame Swoboda always taught following the same sequence at the "barre". Les pliés, battements tendus, ronds des jambes à terre, etc. The sequence was easy to remember, even for new students. The person who led the class was always placed in the front of the row and we could concentrate on our work without having to worry about complicated choreography. (Not always the case with other teachers). No visitors were allowed, no one could watch her class without her permission. Anyone approaching the doorway was quickly evicted with a " who you are?"

If anyone is still interested, then I will continue.

Her favorite color was blue !

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I am very interested, in fact fascinated. Please do go on. :thumbsup: When I was a child she had a school in Vermont as well as was teaching in NYC.

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Madame Swoboda always taught following the same sequence at the "barre". Les pliés, battements tendus, ronds des jambes à terre, etc. The sequence was easy to remember, even for new students. The person who led the class was always placed in the front of the row and we could concentrate on our work without having to worry about complicated choreography. (Not always the case with other teachers). No visitors were allowed, no one could watch her class without her permission. Anyone approaching the doorway was quickly evicted with a " who you are?"

If anyone is still interested, then I will continue.

Her favorite color was blue !

I took her classes as a kid. A big difference between her classes and other classes was that all of her combinations moved from the one end of the room to the other, even the adagio.

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After the "barre" was the "adagio". There was always a complicity between Madame Swoboda's movements and the pianist. The pianist had to follow and adapt the musical mathematics to Madame's inspiration. We worked from "back to front". Always moving forwards never stagnant. She said "dancers move" ; they don't stand in one place. Working in front of the mirror was mostly during point class and of course for "fouettés". After the adagio, the girls would put on their toe shoes (the only time we were allowed to sit on the floor). Depending on the studio, some girls would run to the bathroom to wet their heels. This way, the toe shoes would not slide off. Of course, it was forbidden to drink water while working. She told us , "after a horse race, the horse must cool down before drinking".

If you want more...please let me know.

She never allowed stretching before the class.

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Am not sure anyone is still interested but I will continue just in case there's someone out there still curious.

Madame Swoboda chose her students one by one to place them in the order she wanted them to proceed, once we started working in the center. In rows, we worked moving forward. It was clearly understood that the front row, center, girl "led " the exercise. Row by row everyone was kept movng. When row 1 reached the end of the studio, we split down the middle to return to the back row and each row moved on the same way. The second time around, for the same exercise, usually row 1 became row 2 and who was placed on the side, changed places with those who had occupied the center. Actually, is was not complicated to understand and taught us discipline, greatly needed when you turn professional. The boys were always the last rows and maybe less worried about respecting the change of rows and places.

Please let me know if there's still someone out there who wants more.

She loved her BIG german shepard named Raymonda. She scared everyone to death!

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Thank you for these details, gold comb. I'm enjoying reading about Madame Swoboda's classes and hope you'll continue to post.

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She loved her BIG german shepard named Raymonda. She scared everyone to death!

:pinch:

(Did she get her inside the studio...?)

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Glad you are still out there for Madame Swoboda.

I would like to take some time and speak of the importance of the pianist for her classes. Madame would say outload, "2" or "4" or "valse" ... and the pianist would play her a piece of music. If Madame liked it , the pianist would continue. If not, another piece had to be played, until Madame found her inspirtation. Then, the pianist had to follow Madame's mouvements. Sounds simple, but I assure you that there were times (especially with the Russian pianist Madame Makishna), there was loud discussion over a piece of music !

Besides the exercises moving from "back to front", there were also the exercises moving across the floor, sideways. The last execise was either "big jumps", sideways, or in a BIG circle with pirouettes and/or des grands jetés. Your guideline was the person in front of you. You had to keep up with the timing and distance. She taught us everything.

I can give you many more details. Just please keep telling me you're out there. It keeps me motivated.

About Raymonda...

Raymonda was 1 of many of her dogs at her home in Lakewood, New Jersey. Boy did she love Raymonda. Whiskey was another small black dog that bite her at the achilles tendon once, and that kept her foot bandaged for weeks. But of course, Madame said it wasn't Whiskey's fault. She loved her animals. I'll have to tell you about her fish pond the next time...

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Just in case there's someone still interested ...Madame Swoboda didn't want (or allow) any of her "babies" to take class with another teacher without her permission. However, she encouraged us to take character class and the few classes given by Mr. Keaton and some very few others. She believed that you should have 1 main teacher ! She called the other students "gyspies" who went around taking classes with different teachers. During class of course we weren't allowed to talk but only if the little ones didn't pick up the steps, she would tell one of the bigger ones to help them out. She always finished the class with the "révérence." We would follow her from one side of the room to the other while she taught us to walk, salute and bow. She walked like a queen, saluted with extaordinary grace and bowed, but never should the knee touch to the floor ! And we tried to imitate her. We applauded after every class.

About the fish pond which was more of a frog pond, she had some beautiful water lilies. I hope someone out there is still reading me. There's still so much to know about her.

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She walked like a queen, saluted with extaordinary grace and bowed, but never should the knee touch to the floor ! And we tried to imitate her. We applauded after every class.

About the fish pond which was more of a frog pond, she had some beautiful water lilies. I hope someone out there is still reading me. There's still so much to know about her.

I've been following your detailed comments on Mme. Sowoda, gold comb. For once I always find fascinating how this old professors acted, either in class or outside. The detail about not kneeling while taking a bow is very interesting, which I knew about already via the autobiography of Danilova. I believe she said that only if royalty was present one would kneel. So yes, gold comb...please keep writing about Swoboda.

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Just in case there's someone still interested ...There's still so much to know about her.

Oh I have always been very interested in reading your recollections on Maria Swoboda. The personality and mannerism details you have written about intrigue me immensely. DO keep writing as I would love to learn as much as possible about this fabulous dancer and teacher. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge about her!

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Some spelling corrections...the Russian pianist could have been Mme Mikeshina (instead of Makisna) and Mr Katon or Caton (instead of Keaton) as I had written previously. I would like to tell, whoever is still out there, more about Mme Swoboda's physical appearance.Although I didn't know her as a young woman and, as many have written before me, you could not give her an age. But I did know her for many, many years; 15 to be exact. She wore no make-up, her hair always tied in a bun with sometimes a pale blue scarf worn as a kerchief, even during class. Of course, she never wore street clothes to teac, but changed into some kind of dark, grey or black, dress. She also wore heavy black shoes that we would always admire when she pointed her feet because she had incredible, natural, insteps. Amongst ourselves, in ballet language, we would say someone had, or did not have, "feet". She also, always wore her grey/blue collar of perles and her beautiful amethyst ring; her nails with red nail polish. She was extremely graceful but hated when she saw dancers flying their arms around that she called "chi chi". Unfortunately, dancers from the NYC ballet ,at that time, just loved "chi chi" arms. But not Mme Swoboda ! She insisted upon discipline and control. Should I continue ?...

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Gold comb-- there are 4,150 viewings of this thread.

People are DEFINITLY interested.

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She was extremely graceful but hated when she saw dancers flying their arms around that she called "chi chi". Unfortunately, dancers from the NYC ballet ,at that time, just loved "chi chi" arms. But not Mme Swoboda ! She insisted upon discipline and control. Should I continue ?...

I took her classes as a kid and young teen. I remember her saying to one dancer (I'm paraphrasing but think I'm pretty close)"

"You must do 3 pirouettes every time - you are machine."

and then to another dancer in the class

"You dance like piece of wood, what you think you are machine?"

She always got her message across!

I'll never forget the loveliness of her arms, head & neck when she demonstrated movement. And as has been stated before her feet were beautifully arched.

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I took about three classes with Mme. Swoboda at the old ABT studios. From what I remember most of all was her very devoted following of dancers . Her barre,as I remember was set and not being one of the regulars, I felt quite out of the loop. She had a very soft voice, wore all black and scared me a bit . She reminded me of the nuns that taught me all through school. I heard her say ( High Legs !) at one point during the class. I think the center combinations were done frequently, as everyone seemed to know them perfectly. We did not face the mirror in the center, but did the steps side by side -everything flowed. I remember Roni Mahler leading the combinations quite beautifully. At the end we did a lovely reverence and applauded Mme. for the class and waited for her to depart. I'm glad to have these memories, I know its not much,but I hope it helps to post this.

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Thank you cabro and violin concerto. You keep me motivated. So here's some more. To vipa and duffster, and the others that are reading/sharing along with us, here are some other of madame's famous expressions. She told us we needed "cardination" which of course meant coordination. An arabesque with a sickled foot was called an "ironing board". Dancers that stayed in one place, trying to hold their balance in a piqué or relevé, she called "classroom dancers". To be called a classroom dancer was very humiliating.

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Gold Comb! I love your posts regarding Madame Swoboda. Almost every detail rings with accuracy from the red nails and black shoes to the "babies", "old ladies" and "gypsies." You bring up so many delicious old memories - in addition to the ones posted on my behalf earlier in this thread.

She was completely larger tha life in every respect. Unlike the divas of today, she had the substance - the training, the musicality, the culture - to back up her oversized personality. She was always, ALWAYS right. Really, she was. Which was why no one ever challenged her. We knew she was right, and that was that.

One thing you touched upon made me laugh. She had a great deal of expertise in music as well as dance, and as a musician who also danced, I was with her all the way when she had "discussions" with her pianists. The pianists were critical to her classes. She loved them one moment, hated them the next - how dare they not have read her mind? The oddest part was, at the end of the class, you "felt" her musicality in her choreography. After hours of her punctuating our classes with the familiar "Stop-stop-stop" to the pianists - they did not run away in tears. They loved her, beacuse they also knew she was always right.

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Does anyone remember her "Character Class"? If not, let me offer my impressions. While her barre was fixed and sometimes mechanical, her character class was a revelation. She wasn't fooling around when she took everything she had taught us - and then stood it on its head. Flexed feet instead of pointed toes. Tilted heads instead of royal carriage. Bent knees and odd ports de bras. We didn't realize it but this was the beginning of her intent to teach us choreography from the great ballets. LOVED IT!

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