Doubly-Gifted Michael Limoli

Clarinetist Michael Limoli c.1970s

Clarinetist Michael Limoli c.1970s
(photo by ????)

Dancer Michael Limoli, c.1970s

Dancer Michael Limoli, c.1970s
(photo by ????)

Michael Limoli: “Are you the dancer that I knew as Michele Morgan?”

mickey morgan: “OUI! Yes. I am the michele morgan who was a trainee just like you. Don’t forget Renita Exter or Maria Vegh (online!), Raimondo Fornoni, Vickie Garlitz, Ray Bussey, Ali Pourfarrokh, Pat Machette (who later married Tanju Tuzer), Zane Wilson, Roberto Medina, Jeannette Vondersaar, Mindy Gars, Janice Stenger (where is she?),

Trudi Hirsch and I were roommates right before I ran away from Harkness with a shirtless gorgeous Frisbee player by day and Central Park resident at night.

Remember Luigi Jazz classes? He recently had a stroke but insists on coming to the studio in his wheelchair at 85(?), and teaching. Remember Milton Oleaga, always in the background at Luigi’s taking photos, dancing a bit, taking a few more shots?

I guess we have a history together, my friend. A toast to the return of yet another member of the Harkness tribe!”

Michael Limoli: “I was a student of Edward Caton who sent me to Harkness in 1970. Mrs. Harkness saw me, made me a trainee and put me in a ballet she was creating. I was always torn between ballet and music. While at Harkness I received a sizable financial package to attend college where I could do both, so I accepted it. While at Harkness, I had many wonderful teachers, David Howard and Maria Vegh being prominent. I was always proud walking in the front door of Harkness House and missed it and the dancers quite a bit when I left. I was there with Michele Morgan, Tom Fowler, Susan McKee, Trudi Hirsch . . . it was a great time in my life, no matter how brief.

Michael Limoli . . . at ease

Michael Limoli . . . at ease
(photo by ?)

During my first “audition” [in] David Howard’s class, I was shaking in my boots, partially because I loved the Harkness Ballet Company so much. After the class, David took me into his office and in his usual dry, quixotic tone of voice said to me, “Well, you are definitely IN. Mrs. Harkness saw you in class and instructed us to give you a contract. You are now a Harkness Trainee.”

As to Luigi’s classes, I not only looked forward to watching him demonstrate, but for me it was learning a new way of moving.  Also, I loved the fact that we were allowed to wear COLORED practice clothes.

Dancer Michael Limoli clad in the freedom of Luigi's Jazz dance class

Dancer Michael Limoli clad in the freedom of Luigi’s Jazz dance class
(photo by Roy Blakey)


Luigi-esque all the way

Luigi-esque all the way
(photo by Roy Blakey)

Here are a few of my Harkness memories:

In one of my early-on classes, Helen Greenford said to me, “Michael you are such a musical dancer. Would you please demonstrate that combination for the class?”

After one class, I went to Raymond Wilson [accompanist] and told him how much I had enjoyed one of the opera arias he had played that day.

In disbelief, he asked me how I knew that piece.  When he learned that I was a clarinetist, he asked me to bring my clarinet to Harkness, which I did. We had fun playing duets.

At a later date, Marjory asked me to play the piano for her class. Both of these Harkness pianists showed great interest in my musical abilities and encouraged me to continue music along with dance.

This may sound corny, but I always felt like I was playing an instrument while I was dancing, and dancing while I was playing a musical instrument. I was once invited to play the piano for a master class being taught by Darci Kistler. We didn’t know each other, but at one point she stopped, and said to the class, “How can you not know the combination? This pianist is giving you every step in his playing.”

After hearing me play, Peter Fonseca (at that time in ABT) asked me to perform a piece on the clarinet with him dancing to his own choreography. (I had met Peter through David Howard.) Peter was a great dancer, a wonderful person and a terrific friend.

Michael Limoli partners ??? in "Les Sylphides"

Michael Limoli partners Kathleen Geiser in “Les Sylphides”
(photo by Richard Pflum during a performance for German Public Television)

After I “officially” stopped dancing and I was performing as a solo clarinetist in various concert spaces around NYC and including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, I continued taking ballet class with David Howard. I also played piano for ABT, Joffrey and Richard Thomas (where I had first met Janek Schergen.)

Later in my dance/music career, I was invited to accompany classes at Kaatsbaan.  One of the teachers was Bonnie Mathis, a Harkness Ballet alum.

Co-incidentally, at the same time I left Harkness to go to Indiana University, another alum from the Harkness Ballet, Cheryl Clark, came to the same school and we performed in ballets together as a pas-de-deux couple.

At Harkness I was a big fan of Edmond La Fosse.  After Harkness days, owing to the spelling of our last names, we used to re-unite in the NY Unemployment line  Later, I was pianist for classes at NYSSSA taught by is brother, Robby La Fosse.

At Harkness, I took class from Elizabeth Carroll.  Little did I know that some 20 years later, my wife (Denise Warner from ABT) would become her successor on the ballet faculty of Skidmore College.

I was pianist for classes taught at North Carolina School of the Arts by Susan McKee McCullough, a contemporary Harkness Trainee.

I later performed as dancer and accompanist at Skidmore College for Mary di Santo, another Harkness colleague. I accompanied classes at Adelphi Unversity for Jan Kriechman, a former Harkness Trainee, a little after my time.

Mrs. Harkness was always kind and friendly. After I left Harkness, she sent me a sweet letter of support, wishing me well on my career in music.

[For an extensive list of dance/clarinetist/accompanist reviews and more photos about Michael Limoli, click his name from the column to the right]


13 thoughts on “Doubly-Gifted Michael Limoli

  1. Great to read about you and Harkness and the many familiar names. I was a Harkness trainee 1974-76. I took class with most of the teachers you mentioned including Luigi. David Howard came as a guest teacher here in the Berkshires ( Western Ma.) two years ago and he and I had a nice reunion with him when my students took his class. They did the therapeutic barre to warm up before class and Mr. Howard recognized them being of the Harkness lineage !


      1. And now another former Harkness trainee who has been “spreading the lineage” on the other side of the world. This is Fay and I have a studio in Bangkok, Thailand. I was a trainee at the same time as Ruby, 1974-76. I am still in touch with David Howard and Elisabeth Carroll. Their teaching is with me every class that I give. I still remember all the crazy ways that Maria got her points across. I remember every studio in that amazing building—and the cool elevator, too. We were so privileged to have great teachers and small classes.


      2. Fay! You made my day! Welcome! The network of is popping up with dancers, clarinetists, Russian folk dancing, etc. . . . so many precious and accomplished people. It is wonderful to hear the stories of post-Harkness to now. What does happen in common amongst us aging dancers? We all have our stories. And it is wonderful and self-affirming to reconnect with kinfolk . . . so much needed with the challenges of getting old.
        So please feel free to send me any Harkness images you may have. But especially, tell us Your story. I’ll post it.
        peace and gratitude,
        mickey/michele morgan

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I was another Harkness trainee earlier 1967-8 Christine Varjan. I remember all the wonderful classes and teachers. Still to this day friends with some. Marina Eglevsky, Larrio Ekson.
    The rooms were so beautiful I didn’t want ti sweat in them.
    Thanks for all the memories! I would love to contact Susan Whealen if anyone has her address?
    Now Kristina Varjan


    1. Ms. Varjan,
      I am so happy you have found us . . . please go to facebook with your story and search for Susan Whealen: “Harkness Ballet of New York”, and very importantly, “An American Ballet Story”. Filmmakers Leslie Streit and Robin McCain (both on facebook) are currently traveling and interviewing Harkness folks for their documentary about our era (yours was earlier! Ali Pourfarrokh eventually became artistic director of Eglevsky Ballet, and now lives in Pt. Wash., NY) . . . also the facebook page “Former Harkness Ballet” has LOTS of us old creaky dancers! Please keep in touch. I will pass on your e-mail if that is ok, to Leslie and Robin. Mine is I was a trainee in 70 and in the company from 71 to 73, in the corps. A REUNION is being planned! Pat and Tanju Tuzer just announced it yesterday on facebook. Send pictures! I would love to do a blog post for you!
      mickey/michele morgan
      Cincinnati, Ohio


  3. hi michele,…..this is trudi hirsch …old friend and roomate…..let’s e-mail and talk….how exciting to get in touch with you!…trudi


    1. hi mickey/michele,
      what does this mean?…truth seems to always have its consequences. i have had 4 lives in this one and am now beginning my 5th life.
      i have thought of you often and wondered what your journey has been.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am beginning my 17th year of Tibetan Buddhist practice, as I try to dispense with 35 years of writing culminating at the Winter Solstice of ????. You met the Dharma well before me. So we are sisters, an elder and a younger. I feel very stupid about my life or lives, yet I may find clarity in Truth or Consequences at the end of this year.
    My years in Cincinnati hold dark memories. I try to leave yet my feet are held by thick sticky molasses.


    1. i am excited to hear about your practice, but sad that you feel glued to a place…one that holds darkness for you. i have continually found sticky shadows and clouds covering clarity…what holds you?
      trudi (you may use my personal e-mail….i would love to hear more and possible help.)…


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