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Michel (or Michael) Panaieff


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I was looking at old LP's at a Salvation Army store in Chelsea earlier today. I came upon a worn LP on the Capitol label entitled "Symphonic Dances" conducted by Felix Slatkin. What caught my eye was the cover which had a very dramatic color photo of some ballet dancers. Surprisingly, the dancers were identified on the back as being Michel Panaieff (dressed as Petrouchka I think), Geraldine Forrey (usual pastel tutu), Victor Moreno (leaping in the air bare-chested as a Polovtsian warrior) and Vanya Mishvek (in what looked like a Matelot costume) of or in the "Panaieff Ballet Concerto". Here is an image of it:


Some googling showed that Mr. Panaieff was a Yugoslav born dancer of Russian background who was born on January 24, 1909 who died on February 7, 1982. Here is part of his NY Times obituary:

"Michel Panaieff, ballet dancer and teacher, died of cancer Feb. 8 in Los Angeles, where he had a ballet studio. He was 69 years old. Mr. Panaieff, born in Novogorad, began to dance seriously in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where his family had emigrated from Russia. He became a principal dancer of the Belgrade Opera in 1935, but it was as a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Original Ballet Russe that he was best known. In the first company, Mr. Panaieff created roles in Leonide Massine's ''Capriccio Espagnol'' and ''Rouge et Noir.'' Mr. Panaieff brought a dramatic touch to his roles, the most popular of which was Franz, the peasant swain in ''Coppelia.'' Among his teachers were Lubov Egorova and Aleksander Volinine."

Panaieff later emigrated to America. Later he served in the U.S. Army Tank Corps for three years during World War II. He also choreographed and danced in the movies and television:


He started various dance companies in the Los Angeles area one of which was called Ballet Musicale (with Lila Zali) which later morphed into the Los Angeles City Ballet. As a teacher one of his students was Cynthia Gregory. He seems to have written about dance too - pedagogical manuals.

Just wondering if this chance discovery jogs any memories. Have any of you studied with Mr. Panaieff or remember him? Did any of you see him dance? Do any of you remember Geraldine Forrey, Victor Moreno or Vanya Mishvek?

Reminiscences please...

Edited by FauxPas
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I studied with both Michael and Victor. Victor was my first teacher. At that time he had a studio in Carlsbad, Ca. I later studied with Micheal when he had his studio in L.A., I had many a great time after rehearsal sitting around the pool with Micheal and Lila Zali at her studio in Laguna beach (Ballet Pacifica) There was a teacher named Paul Maure who taught there and was recently honored along with Victor because of the recent Ballet Russe film.

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Thanks for the responses, any specific anecdotes or little stories that might tell us about Mr. Panaieff and Mr. Moreno, their teaching style and their personalities?

Another interesting tidbit - Panaieff starred in a film called "Mission to Moscow" (1943) a piece of wartime pro-Soviet propaganda. This film later proved an embarassment to the studio when Russia became THE ENEMY during the Cold War era. Supposedly Jack Warner said it was one movie he wished he never made but Russia was our ally in World War II and took a beating pushing back the Nazis from the Eastern Front. Anyway, in this movie an unbilled Cyd Charisse plays Galina Ulanova :clapping: and Mr. Panaieff is her partner. Haven't seen the movie but I would guess Cyd is just seen dancing in the background.

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I remember the name Michael Panaieff from the So. Cal. dance scene but since I lived out towards Orange County I never got to his studio. Later in life I took classes at Sallie Whalen's studio in Hollywood. I had an instructor there that I liked very much - he gave very complicated and fast center work, but fun! The name Paul Maure sounds so familiar - would he have taught at Sallie's studio? Anyone from that era in L.A. have recollections?

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Barbara, our paths may have crossed many times possibly! After Eugene Loring's Hollywood studio closed, many of those teachers grouped together and opened their own spaces. Sallie Whelan was one of those. I also frequented her classes and went on to study at UCI under Loring where Paul Maure came in on occassion. He taught at Sallie Whelan's studio for years. He traveled around to various studios in L.A./O.C. areas. His classes were full of multiple turn combinations as he was an expert turner. A wonderful teacher - giving, kind, spirited and encouraging!

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socalgal, I was at UCI under Loring too! Most of my classes were with El Gabriel and sometimes Roy Fitzgerald/Fitzpatrick? The mind fails me. During that same time I studied with Clinton Rothwell from the National Ballet of Canada at a teeny school in Newport Beach. Some years later with Stanley Holden in West LA. So that probably was Paul Maure teaching at Sallies. I did love his classes. Did you ever have George Chakiris in your class? That was special since at the age of 13 I had the worst crush on him in West Side Story. I could hardly believe I was standing next to him at the barre! Thanks for the memories. Sorry this has veared away from Mr. Panaieff.

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Barbara..OK....were you a grad student like me? If so...I am sure we know each other. Yes, George Chakiris did frequent classes as did many other film and t.v. stars. Clinton Rothwell , former priniciple of NBC, was at UCI for a short time. He was so incredible to watch demonstrate for us that I would almost forget the combination. (He was newly retired) Roy Fitzell (sp?) was my partner in "Kiss Me Kate" a wonderful person. Would love to PM you when you get enough posts required to do so as this post is really going off topic! Glad that you have found BT!

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Victor was my teacher. he is so lovable....wearing a fat wrestling belt to keep his back from falling out. Whenever he was suprised, or disappointed, his favorite phrase was, "ai chiuaua!" (like the little dog - I know it is spelled incorrectly)!. He has a very proud and caring personality - he is loud in character. He used to show us dark films of his dancing with the ballerinas of Ballet Russe de Monte de Carlo, and tell us that we were too fat! At the time he had some of the original costumes from the Ballet Russes, and admittedly, we did not fit in them! But oh! how we wanted to wear them! I love Victor with all my heart.

When I was 13yrs old, he asked me to dance as the doll in Coppelia, because he and Alexei Yudenich said that I had such a pretty face. It was the last performance I got to dance. My life was turned upside down after that, and I wish that I could turn the clock back to class with Victor.

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My early training was while living in Southern California. I am familiar with Michel Panaieff and Paul Maure.

I took only a couple of classes from Misha. He was a character, with quite the loyal following. His school was colorful with a huge wall of famous dancer autographs. Hollywood used his school for rehearsals, as did various acts (I saw Ann Maragret rehearse her Vegas show there). He had a very friendly personality, easy with a smile and interesting joke. He adopted a man who was in his 20's, because "David never had a father and I never had a son". He would come to my ballet studio to set ballets on our little company, Ballet des Arts. He would always give me a good part, noting that I paced like a "race horse". We did his "Devil's Belt", a Ballet Russes type ballet that was a love story, complete with gypsies, one of which I danced.

He would come to rehearsals drunk, often swigging from an ornate cane that housed whiskey. I remember that he had trouble remembering his choreography, but the dances eventually got completed. We all loved him.

I went to his house for a BBQ once. He had a lot of memorabilia from his dancing days. He was quite handsome and charming looking. He was rather a short, stocky man in his older years, but you could tell that he probably was a good looking dancer in his youth.

He called Houston Ballet on my behalf and got me a job with Nina Popova's company in the late 60's, early 70's. That's another story in itself. I appreciated his generosity and I remember that he asked me first if that is what I would like. Just being accepted into a Disney touring company, with Ona White as choreographer, I really wanted to dance in a ballet company. I flew out the next day as a company member. Thank you, Misha.

Paul Maure was married to Andrea Karlsen, after leaving the Grand Ballets de Marquis de Cuevas company. They settled in La Canada-Flintridge, CA; my hometown. They brought international training to our city. (Miss Karlsen was taught privately by Bronislava Nijinska, later taken into the de Cuevas company when she was hired as ballet mistress. She and Mr. Maure lived in a beautiful area of La Canada, a Spanish style villa, with pool and guest house. ) He was quite handsome and quite a ladies' man. I liked his classes, but his wife's classes were really the treasure.

He eventually started a second school in San Fernando Valley. He guested at so many schools throughout the S. California area: notably Ballet Pacifica (Lila Zali), Sallie Whelan, Panaieff's school. He was hired as guest performer with many local groups. He loved that and his biggest regret was not being to continue dancing in his older years. I was lucky to have danced a number of pas de deuxs with him. He could make me do 20 pirouettes, which made me wonder why no one else could do that with me. He was an excellent partner and was known for his pirouettes and entrechats. Mr. Maure is still alive with many loyal, loving students.

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