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Claudia Cravey in London


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Thank you so much for that clip. The London performance starred Violette Verdy as the grown-up Princess. Pierre Lacotte was the grown-up Prince. Story and choreography were by "Jo Anna" (credited as such in the program). The show was developed at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach, with Creavey as the young princess and "Jo Anna" and Michael Maule as the adults.

Cravey, from 1986 to this year, was Principal Ballet Mistress of Ballet Florida in West Palm Beach, working with visiting choreographers, rehearsing every work, giving most of the company classes and many of the higher level classes at the company's school, the Academy of Ballet Florida. I had the chance to observe her at work during Nutcracker rehearsals and performances and was deeply impressed by her visual memory, attention to detail and ability and ability to communicate with every performer, from the children to the adult professionals.

Unfortunately, Ballet Florida was a victim of the current economic meltdown and was forced to file for bankruptcy before the end of the 2008-09 season. Creavey -- along with BF's former artistic director Marie Hale and a number of other senior members of the company -- are opening a new school this fall, renting facilities in the former Ballet Florida building.

Going through clippings and old programs, I've tried to piece together her professional dancing career, starting with performances as a child during the late 50s in Palm Beach and appearance on the Ed Sullivan and Dick Clark tv shows. She danced with Washington Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the Harkness Ballet through the 1960s and appears to have retired from performance after that.

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I'm pretty sure the "Jo Anna" would be Joanna Kneeland.
This is like playing detective! Kneeland is, I guess, best known for her system of dance training and for the Therapeutic Barre. However, she was also a founder of the "Palm Beach Ballet Company," a precursor of Ballet Florida. She worked later on with the dancers and teachers of Harkness Company, where Cravey was a dancer. Kneeland was choreographer -- and her husband was the writer and director -- of a film based on Coppelia. Shot in Madrid and using the company of the Gran Teatro del Liceo (Barcelona), it was called El Fantastico Mundo de Dr. Coppelius in Spain and Dr. Coppelius. in the U.S. It got a rather sweet review in the NY Times in 1966.

If you look down the IMDB cast list for that, you'll find a "Clara Cravey" playing Swanhilda's friend #3. (The Coppelia is Claudia Corday, so Creavey's first name may have been changed to avoid confusion.)


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No, Claudia Cravey (not Creavey) and Clara Cravey are sisters. Clara also danced professionally and taught at the Houston Ballet Academy, becoming principal of the school for many, many years. Claudia was a phenomenon as a child, truly special and way beyond any other child dancer I have ever seen. She was not a Joyce Cuoco, in that she was not about tricks. She was a young classical artist, with line, technique, musicality, and incredible artistry. She was not making a gazillion pirouettes at 12, she was looking much more like a miniature ballerina. She grew into a top notch dancer with Harkness, and retired young to marry and have children. Her daughter is a principal with Ben Stevenson's company now, and Claudia has been Ballet Mistress of Ballet Florida from 1981 until now. She also teaches in the school and is an exceptional teacher. So is Clara Cravey, who is now free lancing as a guest teacher around the country.

They were both trained by JoAnna Kneeland, prior to her work at Harkness. So was I. Claudia starred as the Princess as a child in the production of The Princess, in London, in 1960. Violette Verdy was indeed the grown up princess. However, JoAnna was not the adult star in the original production in Palm Beach, although Michael Maule was. JoAnna was in the production in an important role, but Violette Verdy was the original Princess. In the London production the male star was Pierre Lacotte. I was a soloist in the production, both in Palm Beach and London.

Claudia's last name was changed for the Coppelia film, and I believe that she kept that during her professonal career with Harkness.

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Thanks for those corrections, Victoria. And for the tribute to Creavey. I especially appreciate your comment that:

She was a young classical artist, with line, technique, musicality, and incredible artistry.
You confirm what I felt about her on the few occasions when I was able to observe her rehearsing and coaching Ballet Florida dancers.
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Claudia was my hero when I was a student watching her in rehearsal and wishing I could dance like that, though the pressure on a 14-year-old ballerina beggars the imagination! I was in the children's ensemble when she danced Swanhilda in Palm Beach, and we all envied the upper-level students who got to go to Spain for the filming. I haven't been home for a while but am glad to hear she's still teaching.

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As a dancer I greatly admired the fluidity of movement characteristic of the Harkness Ballet. After working with several of JoAnna Kneeland's students, I finally met her in 1980. She was truly a force of nature and absolutely a marvel at identifying just the right correction needed. In 1985 she set her full-length Coppelia on our company, Metro Dancers in Portland, Oregon. It is still in our rep and was performed this past season. She introduced the character of Brigitta, a barmaid who was a love interest for Dr. Coppelius. This gave him more humanity and warmth. She was a regular guest artist at our Summer Intensives from 1985 until her passing. We were working together on a video series to illustrate her methodology at the time of her death. A great loss to the dance community that we never had time to finish the project. To keep her choreography alive, she left us with the rights to perform and stage Coppelia . I would be interested to know if anyone else has productions of her other work still in their rep.

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