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Hello, I am new to this board and was delighted to find it. I searched the available topics and couldn't come up with a mention of Andrea Karlsen's passing last September, 2007. I would like to post this memory and tribute that I wrote when first reading of her death. Any other reminiscences would be greatly appreciated, if you were fortunate enough to have worked with her!


I get alot of free ballet magazines. I really don't know why, but they like to send them to ballet schools free so that they are displayed in our lobbies.

I received Pointe Magazine, a ballet magazine that is published and founded by an ex-ballerina with Dance Theater of Harlem. She does a marvelous job, focusing on ballet instead of the many other dance forms. Of course, for a classical dancer, this magazine is ideal.

I was glancing through the pages before I was slated to teach a class, and my eyes came across a familiar and loved name: Andrea Karlsen. She was my ballet teacher for 8 years. She is the one who I built my whole conception of ballet from. I adored that woman because she gave me the key to an artform that I wanted to exceed in.

As a young student, I watched her and wondered if I'd ever have the turnout that she had. She 'walked like a duck' so I wanted to "walk like a duck", too. She wore a comfortable pair of Buster Brown shoes, so, I wanted to wear some, too. She looked dismayed when her dancers didn't dance well, so, I wanted to look dismayed, too. I loved her.

She was the one who stood on my legs in butterfly position and managed to tear both groin muscles. She was the one who chose me to dance in Tchaikowsky's "Romeo and Juliet", because I was 14 like Juliet. She was the one that let me move into her pool house, because my mother wanted me to dance with Disney instead of a professional ballet company. She was the one who arranged my first professional job with the Houston Ballet Company.

I knew all about her. She studied privately with Madame Bronislava Nijinska, Nijinsky's sister. She joined the Grand Ballet de Marquis de Cuevas in 1949. She became a ballerina with that company, specializing in lyrical, dramatic parts. She came back to her hometown, La Canada, California, to open a ballet school. That was my biggest fortune.

I worshipped everything she ever said. Her standards set my standards. She never was content to have a just a school, she wanted a quality school that could do the classics. From her tutelage, I performed in Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Nutcracker, Giselle, Dolin's Pas de Quatre, and all the contemporary ballets that she thought were worthwhile. She always told stories with these ballets. Because of her, I know alot of history that isn't written down. I pass any and all of the knowledge that I received from her to my students. It's the chain of mentor and student.

There is a precious picture of her next to her obit, one of her dancing in Francesca de Rimini. I know her acting style inside and out, as I used to copy everything she did. She emoted, I emoted.

Thank you, Andrea Karlsen, for all that you've given me. I know that you worried when I would diet too much, or that I was vitamin insufficient when I get bloody noses in class. I know that you would buy me pointe shoes when my shoes would be worn so much to get holes in them. I know that you were proud of me and I still remember what you inscribed on a photograph to me: To My Debbie, May you get the career that you deserve. Love, Andrea Karlsen.

Andrea Karlsen, prima ballerina in my life. Rest in peace.

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