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Mary Day to become Director Emeritus of Washington School of Ballet

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It's official. Just got this press release:



(Washington, D.C.) – Dance pioneer and visionary Mary Day announced today she will assume the post of Director Emeritus of The Washington School of Ballet upon the appointment of a new director. Since founding the School in 1944, Ms. Day has trained over 10,000 students, established a world-class company in the nation’s capital and been recognized as one of the dance world’s most distinguished and respected teachers. A search committee, co-chaired by The Washington Ballet’s Artistic Director Septime Webre and former General Director Elvi Moore, along with a small group from The Washington Ballet’s Board of Directors has been formed. The search is now underway and Ms. Day’s successor will be in place in the fall of 2003, in time for the new school year.

“To be a really good teacher, one has to truly want each person to learn and to want to touch each student,” says Ms. Day. “I think I’ve given a great love for dance to many, many people, and that is what I intended to do. I wanted to develop new talent, choreographers and dancers. But along the way, many lives have been touched and that’s the most rewarding thing that a teacher could feel.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Ms. Day had a vision to create, in her hometown, a dance organization that would be recognized nationally and internationally for its standards and quality. Together with Lisa Gardiner, Ms. Day founded The Washington School of Ballet in 1944. Ms. Day’s beloved production of The Nutcracker was first staged in 1961 with the National Symphony Orchestra and has delighted Washingtonians for the past 41 years while providing a rite of passage to thousands of young dancers who have performed in it. In 1962, the Academy of The Washington Ballet became the first in the United States to offer a combined curriculum of dance and academics. That tradition continued until 1977 when the School once again focused solely on dance training. Ms. Day established The Washington Ballet in 1976, Washington’s only professional ballet company, and remained the Company’s artistic director until 1999 when Webre was named as her successor.

“For over 50 years, Mary Day has been one of the great visionaries for dance and dance training,” says Webre. “Her influence is evident in ballet companies all over the world where her pupils have become important stars as well as members of the corps de ballet which is the real backbone of our art form.”

Ms. Day’s gift for developing young talent has been touted throughout the world and Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times said, “Mary Day of The Washington Ballet must be doing something right. Her former pupils are among the best dancers around…” Trained personally by Ms. Day are such luminaries as Kevin McKenzie, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre; Amanda McKerrow, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre; and Virginia Johnson, former star of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Actresses Shirley MacLaine and Georgia Engel were also students of Ms. Day, as were First Children Caroline Kennedy and Chelsea Clinton.

Ms. Day has been honored with the Mayor’s Award, WETA-FM’s “Woman of Achievement” Award, the Metropolitan Dance Award, the Cultural Alliance’s Founders Award, the first Chautauqua Dance Award of Excellence in Teaching and the IONA Senior Services Outstanding Citizen Award. Ms. Day has also been named “Washingtonian of the Year” by Washingtonian Magazine and honored by WGMS Radio, Howard University and the National Theatre Corporation. In addition, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Shenandoah University and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Mount Vernon College.

"Mary Day has played an enormous role in changing the cultural landscape of Washington, D.C., with her production of The Nutcracker which has been performed for over 40 years, and with the professional company she founded,” says Kay Kendall, President of The Washington Ballet’s Board of Directors. “Today’s proliferation of ballet schools and touring companies in our community have been directly stimulated by the groundbreaking, inspirational and progressive commitment Ms. Day has given to the art of dance.”

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