Mabel Freeman and Carnegie Hall’s Ballet Arts
Veronine Vestoff‘s school in New York worked with Carnegie Hall’s Ballet Arts, and several of Mabel Freeman’s students did as well. Many young dancers went to New York over the summers to continue their training in a more rigorous environment, and Freeman’s students were no different. From 1949 to 1953, Therrell Smith continued training at Ballet Arts in New York, after graduating from college and opening up her own studio. Like Therrell Smith, Bernice Hammond also studied ballet at Ballet Arts over the summer. Doris Patterson may have as well, as she took summer classes in New York, although the specific location of these classes is unknown.
Marion Cuyjet and Carnegie Hall’s Ballet Arts
Because Marion Cuyjet was light-skinned, she was afforded privileges that her peers were not. Cuyjet regularly traveled to New York (alone and with her students) to study at studios like Dunham and Ballet Arts at Carnegie Hall.
But eventually, Cuyjet and her students would integrate Ballet Arts. At the tender age of 15, Delores Browne, the most advanced of Cuyjet’s pupils, entered Ballet Arts with specific instructions from Cuyjet not to be turned away or diverted to other classes, and if she were, she should demand a full refund. Since Browne was so young, she was chaperoned by a 19-year-old young man named George Mills. With schedule in hand, Delores checked in at the front desk, and the woman directed her to the “annex.” More afraid of Mrs. Cuyjet than the white receptionist, the small dancer summoned her courage, stood her ground and demanded that she either be admitted to the classes she was registered for or be given her money back. The woman yielded. A few days later she was joined by Cuyjet and her other classmates.
Browne also endured being shunned by the white male dancers in her first partnering class. She continued with the classes and learned all she could to take to their boys back home. Browne says of the experience:
Miss Marion actually took classes with us because she wanted us to feel safe. And it was summer, so there were people from all over the country who did not like the idea…. [In partnering classes] no boys would come behind us, so Miss Marion said we will partner each other; we’ll alternate. We’ll go back and show our boys, and then we’ll do the whole class when we get home. The next week, we [came] back, Dokoudovsky [called] the girls down. He would place you. And the best man in class got behind me. Then the other men got behind the other girls, and so that was the end of that incident.
More about Ballet Arts
Founded in 1937, Ballet Arts is one of the longest-established, continuously-operating dance schools in New York City’s history. For over 80 years, the studios have provided a home for some of the finest teachers in America, where the creation and rehearsal of many famous ballets took place and where the hard work of students propelled some to great fame in the dance world. Ballet Arts has hosted some of the legendary dancers and choreographers of the 20th century.
From its time at Studio 61 in Carnegie Hall, the Ballet Arts school has played host to such early dance pioneers as The Isadora Duncan Dancers, Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, and Yeichi Nimura. Later, when classical ballet captured the American imagination, Ballet Arts was foremost in providing teaching and rehearsal space to such legendary figures as Michael Mordkin and Lucia Chase (who would shortly found a company called Ballet Theatre), Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine.
After WWII, Ballet Arts was a mecca for some of the greatest teachers in the country: Alexander Danilova, Margaret Craske, Vladimir Dokoudovsky, Rosella Hightower, Eugene Loring, Vera Nemtchinova, Bronislava Nijinska, Nina Stroganova, and Anthony Tudor.
Since that time, the school has attracted an ever-wider range of teachers in all disciplines, but it is in the field of ballet that Ballet Arts has shown its leadership.