GRACE MARION CLARK, who died last week at 84, was Anne Arundel's first lady of dance. She taught ballet for 40 years. In 1966, she created the Annapolis Civic Ballet Company. Among the ballets presented by the company were "Swan Lake," "The Nutcracker Suite," which became a Christmas-time tradition, "La Bayadere," "Les Sylphides" and "The Sleeping Beauty."
Although Mrs. Clark folded her ballet company upon retirement in 1989, her pioneering work merits recognition. Hers was one of the cultural institutions started in the 1960s that brought sophistication to Maryland's state capital. The founding of the Annapolis Symphony in 1962 was the beginning. A choral society was organized the very next year and Mrs. Clark's ballet a few years later.
Grace Clark studied with many famous teachers in America and in Europe, including those from London's Royal Academy of Dance and the Royal Danish Ballet. Even when she was in her seventies, she conducted a busy schedule, running as many as five classes a day.
She was a demanding disciplinarian. "Without discipline, I can't teach and the students can't learn," she said. "Make certain you're standing straight. And don't forget to look at yourself in the mirror."
She moved to Annapolis in 1940 when her husband, Capt. Ellery H. Clark Jr., was appointed to the faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy. She taught dancing for 34 years at the Naval Academy Primary School. She founded the Grace Clark School of the Dance in 1950 in a studio she had added to her large, white, Victorian clapboard home on Franklin Street. She was a familiar sight in the historic town, in her trademark pastel leotards and matching skirt, and her hair pulled back in a dancer's bun.
Her own interest in dance began when she was 12, growing up in Detroit. Her early formal training was in the Denishawn school, which was operated by dance pioneers Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis.
During her long career, Mrs. Clark instructed thousands of students in the method developed by Enrico Cecchetti, an Italian dancer who settled in Russia in 1887 and became ballet master of Diaghilev's Ballet Russes.
She was an inspiring, uncompromising teacher. Annapolis was lucky to have her.
Pub Date: 5/07/97