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Spotlight on the Teacher: Marcia Dale Weary

Marcia Dale Weary. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of The New York Times.

In this month’s installment of Spotlight on the Teacher, Dance Informa recognizes renowned ballet teacher Marica Dale Weary, who recently passed away this past March, and whose graduates from her school went on to become some of the biggest names in ballet, including Jonathan Stafford, Ashley Bouder, Jeffrey Cirio and more.  

Weary, who found more of a passion in teaching dance than in performing, started her own ballet school when she was just 19 years old. At the time, it was a converted sheep barn outside of Harrisburg, PA, and only consisted of one small studio. Soon, the school expanded and became the famous Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB), the only school that have been given permission by the George Balanchine Trust to perform George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. CPYB has about 300 students during the regular year and around 600 students during its summer programs.

Weary passed away on March 4, at the age of 82, due to heart failure. Although she is no longer with us, her teachings surely live on, through other teachers she has inspired.

Deborah Wingert, who studied with Weary from 1972-79, went on to join New York City Ballet (NYCB) after being invited by George Balanchine. She danced with the company for 15 years and performed in over 25 principal, soloist and featured roles. Wingert is currently head faculty at Manhattan Youth Ballet and is on faculty at The Juilliard School. In addition, she was selected by the George Balanchine Trust to be a répétiteur of his ballets.

Here, Wingert shares some of her fondest memories of her beloved teacher, Weary, and how her spirit is sure to live on.

What was your relationship with Marcia Dale Weary? When did you train with her?

Deborah Wingert.

Deborah Wingert.

“I studied with her from 1972-79. She was my main teacher, and back then we did full-length classical ballets! And some smaller pieces for the younger dancers. She taught me to teach, telling me that my body would get smarter if I taught others. I had knobby knees and not great feet, so I had to work extra hard. When I got into NYCB, she always had me teach for her during the summer program, and I even staged a few ballets for her. She called me her ‘sunshine’ and always asked me if I ever had a bad mood!”

How did she affect you personally, and how did she impact the dance world at large? 

“Truthfully, she made me question if I would ever be ‘good enough’. It was a constant striving for the qualities that would elicit praise from her. And yet, she made so many of us aware of the power of our art. She taught music, art, ballet, taste – all with a very strong work ethic! Her students are excellent – well trained, beautifully presented and willing to do the work.”

Why do you think Marcia was so successful, especially as a teacher and director of CPYB?

“I believe Marcia knew her strengths and also was able to be brave enough to bring in guests to supplant those. She knew other artists would inspire us and encourage us in different ways. She worried about the dancers who wouldn’t make it and wanted them to be well trained, knowledgeable and passionate. She loved her work and her students.”

What else should the dance community and young dancers know about her, or words of wisdom she offered that you think we should know?

“Marcia once told me I was my own best teacher. I learned from her by watching others and applying the corrections. She said I was always ‘looking under her skirt’ to see how it was done! And she told me she was only as good as her worst student. She wanted to teach us all. I know she was so proud of me, and I look forward to passing on her combinations and words of wisdom. [After she passed], while we were preparing for a dress rehearsal at Manhattan Youth Ballet, one of my students, Gianna, said, “I’m so sorry you lost your ballet teacher this week, but she will live on when you share your stories and her combinations with us!”

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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