Wednesday, September 23rd, 2008 - Reminiscences of The Boston Ballet Studios on Washington Street

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Good Afternoon Dancers and Dreamers,

I spent the weekend resting mostly, but I did get in some projects that I enjoy doing. Not much photography this weekend, however.

Mary Sue Brandwein recently inquired on facebook if anyone remembered the Boston Ballet's old Washington Street Studio. That's where I spent so much of my time as a young dance student and a performer with the Boston Ballet Company. I have been thinking a lot about those rigorous and demanding days that were also so exciting and wonderful. That Studio was the focal point of my life.

When I start thinking, I start writing, and I started formulating my answer. Actually, I dictated a rough draft to Chic, so it's like a stream of consciousness, and it needs tons of work. I am still working on that. Here is an excerpt of what I have done so far. It is unedited, and needs lots of work to make it read well and say what I feel. The emotions are very very powerful.

A blog is a log on the web of what I am thinking and doing about ballet. So it's OK to share poorly written stuff. So, here we go with my thoughts, really out loud.

Yes, Mary Sue, I do remember the Washington Street Studio, and I have several pictures of me as a young dancer taken in that very studio in the 1968 - 1969 time frame. I have posted it as a slideshow on the Boston Ballet Alumni Network website. I am also putting it in this blog, see below.

The studio had wood floors and no poles and lots of windows. It had a small seating area for the Parents. Mr Hobbes piano was on that side of the room. EVW sat on the other side of the room next to the windows, and next to the stereo. I stood at the front spot by the mirror closest to the front window and to Virginia. That was my spot and everybody knew it. Even when I was late from my long commute from Beverly, I went into that spot.

Mary Sue, it is wonderful to me that you are actually asking about who remembers that studio!! It was such an important place to me. I remember it vividly. I remember who stood where in the room, the kind of combinations we did. I remember the seating area for the parents was at the other end of the studio, near the air shaft. Relatives and friends were welcome to sit and observe.

Some of the other dancers who danced at that studio with me were, Jerrolyn Dana, Edie Toth, George Vargas, Alphy Poullin, Stefanie Marini, June Perry, Veronica Fell, Ellen O'Reilly, Evie O'Reilly, Jeanne Churchill, Bonnie Wyckoff, Tony Williams, Sandy Kronsberg Jennings, Elise Ingles, Leslie Woodies, Stephanie Moy, and Terri Gordon. We had wonderful classes and wonderful rehearsals. So much was accomplished ballet-wise in that studio... Here is a photo of some of us in the studio. You can see that we are exhausted, leaning on the barre as we watched an alternating group.

Cecily and Jerilyn Dana During Class ~1968 to 1969 at the Boston Ballet Studios on Washington Street near the Commons

©Arizona Ballet Theatre 2007-2008|All Rights Reserved

©Cecily Travsky Winslow Bressel|All Rights Reserved

It shows foreground to background, Cecily and Jerilyn Dana During Class ~1968 to 1969 at the Boston Ballet Studios on Washington Street near the Commons. I was 16 or 17 years old. Jerilyn was a Principal, so she lead off in Center work. You will see that in later photos in this series.

It is very exciting to see these photos at a reasonable size. I have had these contact sheets for years with the teeny little 35 millimeter film contact prints. Now we can blow them up with our own equipment.

Virginia always sat. When Sydney Leonard taught point, I stood at the far wall. Sydney didn't sit and she moved around a lot.

I could recreate it in a dozen movies. There was always so much going on. It was very different from the Studio on Boylston Street near the Back Bay Theatre. They have torn down the Back Bay Theatre, of course...

I remember being very nervous and alert in that seedy neighborhood. To the left, leaving the Washington Street building, were the department stores. To the right was the Pussycat Lounge. Dinty Moore's, a very famous Boston landmark restaurant, was right down the alley off Avery street, in the Avery Hotel. I ate there a lot with Mummy.

Washington Street was the busiest spot in Boston at afternoon rush hour. The streets were all one way. it was a much more more difficult location than Boylston Street. Depending on traffic, My Mother had to drop me off and go to park the car. I would be nervous about the area, and then about getting to the studio quickly.

The elevator was quicker if you didn't get stuck. I desperately wanted to get into the Studio before I would get a dirty look from Virginia. She didn't like it when I arrived late. She could say "you're too late." But she never once told me I couldn't take class. She did say it to some other late arrivals on occasion, so I was always frightened that she would...

I could set a movie, a dozen movies, in the Washington Street Studio. Man, do I remember! We learned Giselle in that very BB Studio. The second act we learned form Dimitri Romanof... He was exactly how you would imagine a Russian emigré would be. He was perfectly cast. I think he came from Ballet Theatre in New York. ... He certainly knew everybody in New York. Virginia used to bring very exalted people up to Boston to teach us these ballets. We learned marvelous ballets. Sara Leland was a Principal at NYCB. Virginia had trained Sara Leland, who was Mrs Ruth Harrington's daughter. Mrs. H was the administrator of the BB, she was the equivalent of Mrs. D'Addario at the Joffrey in New York City... She was there for decades. She was Sally Harrington, but her professional name was Sara Leland. Her Father was Leland Harrington. He was a hockey player on the Boston Bruins and a big hero in Boston. Sally Harrington would teach us when she was in Boston. Sally set a lot of the latest Balanchine ballets on us and taught us. She was a Soloist and was promoted to Principal. Sara Leland was 18 or 20 when I arrived and she soon went off to NYCB.

Virginia would shout out corrections to others. She had a strong voice. But to me she barely moved her lips with her flood of almost whispered commands! Now I look back, I was working my butt off in my hot spot that I chose myself. I was in a constant state of agitation and worry. But I wouldn't ever change my location. Now that I have been a teacher for quite a while, I see that EV wanted me near her so she could give me all those extra corrections. It was really a plus, that other dancers envied. At the time it seemed overwhelming and discouraging. But, I was tough I guess, or just stubborn. i would cry going home in the car, but I came back the next day, and every day.

it was fantastic, looking back, what we did in there. We established the heart and soul of the company. The artistic accomplishments in that room were incredible. Virginia was at her peak. She was bringing in a flood of people from all over the world. Virginia had made her mark as a choreographer. She had won a few choreography contests, I think , and she took notes when she was able to observe Mr. Balanchine in action. Now she was switching from being the main choreographer of her budding Company to bringing these other choreographers from all over. That was in addition to our resident choreographer Sam Kurkjian. This was the main formative period that made the BB the artistic powerhouse it was. We really accomplished a lot at that time.

Joycie Cuoco was still in and out occasionally. She did a lot of television Guest appearances on shows like, Ed Sullivan, Danny Kaye, and Radio City Music Hall engagements. Many of the dancers who Virginia trained are or were in very important positions in the world of ballet. Some have retired but most are still active. Virginia had an exciting concept. BB was more well rounded in terms of repertoire than Balanchine's company. We had tons of new Balanchine Ballets, two or three a year. But we also did the classics with great people. Virginia hired Makarova first of anyone in the States right after she defected. She did the second act of Swan Lake with us. I remember watching her rehearse. It must have been 2nd act.

In addition to Virginia having had Makarova first, before others got her, she also had Marcia Haydee and Richard Cragun, Margot Fonteyn danced with us when we were still performing at the Back Bay Theatre which was just about a block from Symphony Hall. I remember how nice she was. She left her dressing room door open so we could go in and ask her questions. Virginia brought in a steady stream of ballet greats. Peter Martins and Susan Farrell danced a pas de deux from Diamonds in Balanchine's Jewels. They didn't dance with us; they were a Special Event which filled in the Program and filled the Theatre. Chellie Zide came back to Boston after being Ballet Mistress with the Joffrey and was our Ballet Mistress for one fabulous year only.

That's todays excerpt... Now, here's the slideshow I promised I would copy into this blog.

Slideshow of Cecily Travsky Winslow Bressel As A Young Dancer With The Early Boston Ballet Company

Most of the photos are of Cecily Travesky (as Virginia renamed me) and other students, in Classes at The Boston Ballet Studios on Washington Street, circa 1968-9, probably in the summer. One photo includes Mr. Hobbs, Miss William’s husband, at the piano! Sydney Leonard was the teacher in both classes.The photographer, Molly, liked to take photos of my dancing. That surprised me greatly at the time. All I have left are some very poorly treated contact sheets from 35 millimeter film negative strips. They have not been cared for properly, and it shows. I hope to learn enough Photoshop to clean them up. However, I thought you would like to see what we have scanned so far. It's been very exciting for us to blow these up and display them.

©Cecily Winslow Bressel 2007-2008| All Rights Reserved

The slideshow also includes one studio shot from an early Boston Ballet Company brochure, made for sale at performances. My husband is posting these quickly for you to share, and I haven't entered everyone's name. Don't hesitate to send me your info, since my memory is no longer "perfect."

Well, that was an exciting trip back in time.

I would really love to hear your memories.

It's really good to connect,