Ballet. You either hate it, or you love it, or it is in your blood and you have no choice. I belong to the latter. My mother was a ballet student... teacher... lover... She had the chance to join the San Francisco Ballet Company or marry the love of her life, Bob Adkins, my father. Surprisingly she chose love - must be a generational thing. Don't know if she ever regretted her decision - that's another post altogether. She kept dancing after getting married, after my birth, and the birth of my little brother and for years after that. She would scope out the new teachers in town, just for fun. I would tag along, often dropping into a heap on the ground, not able to continue after a grueling barre workout. She was the Ballet Energizer Bunny! Even in her late 60's, visiting me in Arizona, she came to my adult ballet class with me, blowing my peers out of the water. Her grace... regal stance... her elegance at all times...
Here she is in 1952.. at the age of 18... I also found this costume in her closet after she died! It is a lovely sage green color... handmade by her of course... about an 18" waistline. It hangs in her honor in my closet... along with her lovely worn pointe shoes. Presenting the lovely Meta Joanne Stout - who became Joanne Adkins... and eventually Joanne Magill... my beautiful mother.
She followed my father around the country, while he chased his dreams of becoming famous. Sometime we were wealthy, sometimes (most of the time) we were broke. She taught for local park bureaus wherever we lived, wanting to help those children who couldn't afford to go to the fancier studios. I was incredibly lucky to receive a scholarship from Portland's beloved Jacqueline Schumacher, Portland's strict Russian style Ballet teacher, whose studio was at the top floor of the Odd Fellows Building in Portland, Oregon. My parents met "Jackie" when she was the choreographer at the Portland Civic Theater, where they were regular performers. Mom didn't drive, so we took the bus downtown, then walked up the six flights of marble stairs to that glorious studio, with huge mirrors on one wall, and a large Grande Piano in the front corner. The live pianist (always live) pounded out Chopin Etudes as we sweated to the crack of Jackie's cane on the floor... keeping time... tapping us gently when our chins would fall, or our rumps were not tucked under enough!
She never bragged about her past... I never knew that she portrayed Odette, in the first ever production of Swan Lake in the United States! She said the "white Russians" sent her a single red rose before each performance (Ballet West Blog)... it gives me chills to realize who I studied under! I'm honored by her talent and her humility... her beauty and grace... and the fact that she is still going strong at the age of 90. This was taken in 2008, when she was just a youngster of 86 - look at her!
I love Maria Grandy's quote about the two teachers my mother studied under: "From Mr. Vasilieff came movement, flow, Russian panache. Mrs. Schumacher provided careful technical training - the fine details and nuance." (Maria Grandy Article) Russian panache - what a great phrase... and Jackie certainly did teach the fine details. We never got away with anything. I am unable to find photos of her teaching in her studio... another testimony to her humility. She taught for the love of dance, and not for glory and fame.
I started dancing in my playpen, in the corner of mom's classes. She said eventually I just climbed out and joined in. Searching my archives, I only found one photo of me in a dancing pose at the age of 9. How different our pictorial lives are now! Even though Morton's Neuroma and other issues prevent me from taking class, ballet will forever be in my heart and soul... Thanks Mom!
Even though I can't dance anymore... my heart soars when I PIN!