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SAB 90 - Elise Reiman

Who is Elise Reiman?

“Reiman came into the School during its second term. ‘It was very exciting to be thereat that time. Balanchine was sort of experimenting a little bit, and we had a sense that he and his new ballets would be different. Lots of artists came to watch. There were just a few of us.’”

“It was Vladimiroff who noticed her first. ‘He was teaching class one day when Balanchine came in. Vladimiroff pointed to me. ‘I want you to see this one,’ he said. The only thing I had was good feet. A good arch, though the feet were sickled. Balanchine talked with me later, and invited me into the company right away. ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘you’ll have to work on your feet.’”

She danced in the American Ballet and Ballet Society, both forerunners to NYCB, originating roles in Balanchine’ Four Temperaments and Divertimento (now Haieff Divertimento) and danced Terpsichore in the 1937 revival of Apollo.

“In 1945, Elise became the first School-trained dancer to join the SAB staff. A veteran of the American Ballet, Ballet Society, and musical comedy, film, and television dance, she brought a touch of wry, home-grown pragmatism to the School.”

—Jennifer Dunning’s “But First a School

(left) Photo by Shonna Valeska, 1983

(right) Elise and Herbert Bliss in Balanchine’s Four Temperaments. Photo by George Platt Lynes, 1946.

How did Elise teach?

“Miss Reiman instructs the one boy and 11 girls in the class, coaxing fingers to become unglued and separated, and hands like small flags in a stiff wind to relax into an open curve. ''Bolder,'' she tells a girl as the children do single pirouettes in the center. She corrects another student's epaulement, tilting the child's cheek up toward the light in a port de bras. ''Like someone kissing you?'' the girl inquires. ''Did you hear that or did you think of it?'' Miss Reiman asks, once the exercise is finished, her usual matter-of-factness softened by surprise. ''Because that's what Balanchine said.’’ —Jennifer Dunning, New York Times, 1985.

(left) Elise Reiman. Photo by Frederick Melton, 1953.

(center) Elise teaching. Photo by Leo Lieb, 1940s.

(right) Elise teaching. Photo from SAB collections.

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