Chautauqua Dance Circle to Celebrate Life of Violette Verdy

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Violette Verdy was the first instructor hired for the Chautauqua School of Dance and a person who Patricia McBride described as a “ray of sunshine.”

In conjunction with its 10th anniversary, the Chautauqua Dance Circle will celebrate the life of Verdy, a world-famous ballerina and teacher, in its first “Views on Pointe” program of the season at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the Hall of Christ.

The CDC uses its “Views on Pointe” lectures to educate about different aspects of dance and provide  a closer look at Chautauqua’s program. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, artistic director of Chautauqua Dance, and McBride will speak as well as show footage of Verdy at Chautauqua at today’s event.

Verdy was a French ballerina and instructor who died on Feb. 8 at the age of 82. She, as well as McBride, studied under the famous George Balanchine and continued to teach across the world. She last taught at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

“She was so loved and cherished by everyone,” said McBride, master teacher and repetiteur. “I always feel like everyone needs a Violette in their life. … She was so knowledgable and so highly intelligible. She saw so many dancers and she was teaching up until her last moments. … She’ll be remembered forever.”

Bonnefoux said he and Verdy danced together at the Paris Opera Ballet and New York City Ballet. Exposing Chautauqua dancers, who have dreams of professional careers, to instruction from teachers like Verdy can “make a world of difference,” he said.

Following the event, the CDC will celebrate its 10th year of operation. The CDC not only hosts lectures, but raises money to provide scholarships for School of Dance students to attend the summer program, said CDC President Karen Dakin.

According to information provided by the CDC, in its first year the organization raised $1,500. Now, the CDC has raised $137,216 for scholarships throughout its 10 years.

“They have helped so many of our future dancers of our students who could not have afforded to come here to this program,” McBride said. “It’s immeasurable what [the CDC has] done for the students.”

The celebration will include cupcakes and speeches by President Tom Becker, Bonnefoux and E. Carol Maxwell, a current and original board member of the CDC.

Bonnefoux said the some students who have received scholarships through the CDC have gone on to join companies like the New York City Ballet.

“It’s wonderful for me to be able to see a dancer that I think should come to Chautauqua who would benefit with what we offer and then to be able to say, ‘You know, I have a scholarship for you,’ and then most of the time the students say, ‘Oh great, because my parents couldn’t afford it,’ ” Bonnefoux said. “It makes me feel great to be able to do that and for them to come.”

Rebekah Barnes

The author Rebekah Barnes