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George Tomal

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RIP George Thomal.

I grew up at NJ Ballet, and like anyone's childhood teachers, George Thomal looms large in my memory.

His classes taught one how to dance a phrase. His adagios were reveries. Will probably always remember him off in the corner gesturing away at an imagined adagio as the pianist played for the stretch between barre and center.

He was one of those teachers who, although they may have been a perfectionist about corrections, just doing his combinations of steps themselves made one a better dancer, somehow they reinforced one's skills. Perhaps it was just the musicality of the combinations made the movements easier to execute, and the more often the steps felt easy the easier they were to perform in other people's classes as well.

One of the best pointe teachers I ever had, oddly enough... you wouldn't think a man would be a really good pointe teacher, but he was.

When a choreographer teaches class, it seems they draw out the artist in the dancer. It's always inspiring to dance in a class where the teacher is choreographing, not just presenting academic exercises... satisfying to attempt to materialize a movement musing...

And he was one of those teachers who would give the barre with little hand movements and have a student demonstrate just from following those little "hand tendus". He loved to make his students demonstrate, and he could get carried away manipulating them this way and that. I remember once demonstrating an adagio, and I still can't figure out how it happened, but he got to "helping" some cloches and next thing I knew I was hanging upside down by one knee from the barre! He was not without his eccentricities, but the longer one danced for him, the more endearing these became.

NJ Ballet indeed must be feeling a deep loss, he was their resident choreographer since the founding of the company.

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I am so sorry that one of your teachers is gone, but I do appreciate your comments here. I love to hear about teachers, especially ones that might be considered eccentric. It reinforces the personal aspect of the art form, and reminds me of my own collection of memorable teachers.

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I've just started taking ballet classes again, which caused me to look up my old ballet school on the internet (New Jersey School of Ballet), where I came across the news that Mr. Tomal had died. And then I found this thread. Mr. Tomal lumed large at NJ Ballet. He was a co-founder of the company with Carolyn Clark. They danced at the same time with ABT.

As Amy Reusch describes so well, he was known for his eccentricities and also loved for them. I, too, was one who was usually chosen (at least during one particular year) to demonstrate the adagio at the barre. He'd usually be kind and show off the things I did best; that was the choreographer in him. His adagios in the center of the floor were beautifully musical, beautifully phrased. And, yes, he would create them while we stretched on the floor after barre.

He could be so funny; he'd work hard to make us all giggle. At the end of class, he'd show us how to clap more loudly, how to cup our hands just right to make more noise -- for him, of course!

And like any good ballet teacher, he wasn't above jealously and possessiveness. Unfortunately, one of my last memories of him was the day I returned to NJ School of Ballet after doing a summer intensive elsewhere without having informed him or gotten his blessing beforehand. He ignored me on my return, never said hello, acted like I wasn't even there in the studio taking class. Sadly, I don't remember if I ever talked to him again after that, not out of anger on my part (I understood his jealously), but because I left for college soon thereafter.

He was a great, great teacher. I can't imagine how many thousands of New Jersey children he taught the art of ballet over the past 50 years, including some gifted dancers: Eva Natanya and Julie Diana were both in my classes with Mr. Tomal.

RIP, Mr. Tomal.

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