About the Harkness Ballet blog

Finally, an amateur effort at pulling all Harkness alums together. Facebook has been great as far as connecting us, and this blog will, hopefully, provide a place for all of us to tell our stories of about the past 40 years! I’m Michele Morgan and was a Harkness trainee in 1970, then was in the company from 71 to 73. It is a joy to reconnect with old friends.

If you wish to contact me personally, my e-mail is mickeypamo@gmail.com.

And, most importantly, Milton Oleaga has made a “Harkness Ballet Book”, spiral bound. Unfortunately, Milton, in his last years, no longer printed, only put together books of photos remaining after his generous donation of many dance photos and companies to the Library of Performing Arts. Milton passed on July 31, 2013.

I started this blog as the result of a Harkness Ballet alums’ reunion a couple of years ago (which I could not attend). Pat Machette Tuzer of Tuzer Ballet in Houston(?) and her husband, Tanju Tuzer, had both been in Harkness in the early  70s, and they sponsored the reunion. So this put us all in touch with each other after awhile, if only by e-mail. So the primary impetus for making this was to show my old dance buddies a spiral-bound book of Harkness performing when I was there.

The photos, as you read in “About” are primarily Milton’s. We reestablished our friendship in about 1990, and since then until his death, he sent me book after book after book. In his early 80s, he lived for this: to make prints of the thousands of negatives he accumulated over 3 decades of hanging out with the gypsies at Luigi’s Jazz class; sneaking his camera into every major NYC company. Not to mention a series of negatives of thousands of headshots of just the casual everyday dancer. And a series of NYC Street photos, where he hid his camera or held it forward as he looked sideways .  . . thousands of shots . . . all from the  60s and 70s.

He took both Martha Graham classes and Luigi classes and New York City Ballet, always with his camera and equipment ready to go. But ordinarily, for the folk in the 70s NYC dance world, most of us know each other . . . especially because he gave me a Harkness book with all these photos. I think he sneaked into The Purple Cow, where we were performing in Sarasota, Florida. Remember, we all haven’t communicated in 40 years. I have no idea what kind of a story to tell. How do you describe the ineffable? Well actually, Milton did describe the ineffable, because with each book, he recorded as much commentary about each photo in each book, which sometimes led him into great storytelling. Some are cassette tapes; some are CD-Rs. I’ve always thought of transcribing them, scanning the photos and making books for him, yet I’m none too far with that. A picture’s worth a thousand words. He recently gave me 3 more books: one of Martha Graham; one of Luigi; and one of New York City Ballet. I will try to get the CDs uploaded as he tells the story of each photo . . . straight from the horse’s mouth, for you all to hear.

Before Milton died a few days short of his 84th birthday, he trekked up and down to and from his 4th flr. apt in NYC on 22nd St., west side. He spents his days making spiral bound books of various subjects: the visual experiences of day-fishing boats; headshots of just about every dancer/actor/gypsy from the 60s on; stacks of books on years of photographing Luigi’s jazz classes in various studios, and on and on with every major dance company in NYC . . . not to mention the thousands of books from the Strand that have been his love for his entire life.

As I said, Milton donated a truckload of prints and negatives of Martha Graham, Jose Limon, New York City Ballet, etc. to the Library of Performing Arts. He wanted his work to be preserved somehow . . . it’s been his whole life. If anyone knows of a museum or curator  in any other institution interested in his work, please tell them he is simply wanted them to be preserved and appreciated, and would be willing to donate entire collections.

Also, he was my best buddy . . .

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30 thoughts on “About the Harkness Ballet blog

  1. You may have know my teacher ruth Petrinovic..she was Director of Traing at Harkenss, i think that was her title, while training/running her Ft Laud School Imperial Studios. Harkess would rehearse,take class there when in Ft Laud on Las Olas. Harkness folded when i turned 18..I went to Ballet de Carcas in the 2nd yr they were their w/Vicente, Clara, Zane, Manuel Molina, Gina Bugatti,Dale Talley & more. Good Luck connecting everyone. Gina is on FB..oh Mindy GRas I think teaches in Boca I heard at Harid Conservatory..not sure. MY 16 yr old a dancer at a school called DanceTown in miami..their little adagio couple “amanda 7 D’angelo” won the Paula Abdul dance contest recently & the boys on the show called CHAOS are from DanceTown, too. Personally..I try & get to a yoga class or pilates….& see Ruth in FT Laud abt 1X a yr. She recently had surgery & is now going thru rehab to get back to teaching at age 80.PS: Am a real estate broker ni Fl now & see Tina Santos New world School performances occassionally.Will post some old Harkness/Ballet de Carcas photos another day.

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer, for your contribution. I guess our times at Harkness did not overlap, however, I’m sure others will be happy to hear from you
      peace,
      mickey

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  2. The TIME photo with the girl over someones shoulder- is DEFINITELY Susan McKee McCullough ( not Clara or mm). Cannot determine the guy! Thanks, these are GREAT! Pat Tuzer

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  3. I went to harkness spent time with Mrs. H./she was so kind..My best friend Christopher Aponte went into the company..I switched to Broadway..But it was at Harkness that I Learned. Not only about High quality of the arts but also High quality of Life as well!…Thank You. Mrs. Rebecca Harkness

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  4. 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 Hersch…it was a great time in my life, no matter how brief. ML

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    1. Michael dear,
      I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. You’ve been so generous with the details of your life and Harkness cohorts. You will have a front page post all your own, and a page all your own like Steven Caras . . . soon (4 hip replacements, whoopee!).
      Be of good cheer,
      michele

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    2. Michael! This is your Cheryl Clark writing to you after all these years. Just came across this Harkness blog. Last time I say Michael, I was doing “Pippin” on Broadway, and also, I heard you play a concert at Lincoln Center. You stayed with Tish Hicks and me on West 72nd a couple of times. Hello Harkness “artistes” ! Please write to me at dancesingflowact@yahoo.com xo Cheryl Clark

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  5. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks a lot!

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    1. Tabatha,
      I’m sorry you’re getting the hassle of multiple duplicate e-mails . . . I don’t have any control over that. I think it is simply WordPress way of doing things.
      peace,
      mickey m.

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  6. I would be the great nephew of a former dancer of the harkness ballet. I believe her first performance was in 1966 and I’ve been searching the web violently for any information on her. From what my grandmother (her sister) had told me her life was similar to the story of black Swan (or maybe that’s just how I want to remember it). Her name was Sarah Anne Thomas. She tragically died at a very young age just as she was on the verge of stardom in the ballet world. My grandmother/her sister has recently suffered a serious stroke and were cleaning out her stuff and have come across some old artifacts that were Aunt Sarah’s old performance shoes and gloves. I believe she wore them in her first performance at the Harkness and I was wondering if anyone out there could provide me with any further knowledge or was even aware of who Aunt Sarah is. I know at a minimum her memory, shoes, and talent meant the world to my grandmother and I wish I had the opportunity to meet her.

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    1. I knew Sarah well and loved her quiet beauty and dedication to dance. I was in company class with Harkness in St Louis the day she tragically passed away—during the class! She was carried out on a stretcher still in her practice clothes. Poor Jeannot had to give us all the sad news later in the day. We performed that night anyway and feeling the empty space beside me in Feast of Ashes was heartbreaking. Carlyn Muchmore Duffy

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      1. Dear Carlyn,
        I am stunned and grieved at the same time that I am happy you have shared your words with all those (over 27,000 people in 70 countries!) . . . your comment can add to the slowly accumulating dance history .. . the bits of which have been scattered wide, and now, you and many others of our kind can put the pieces of the beautiful story into place. thank you . . . mickey/michele morgan
        p.s. also see the new growing http://OleagaPhotoGallery.wordpress.com for upcoming thousands(!) of the late Milton Oleaga’s dance photographs, non-Harkness related.

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    2. Wow! Will! Be sure to follow or subscribe here . . . other folks may be able to get some of their mysteries solved. Thank you! Befriend me on fcbk: mickey morgan (was michele morgan in Harkness 70-73
      peace,
      mm

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  7. I was a trainee at Harkness 1972-73, then Houston Ballet. LOVED David Howard. Was there with Patrick Swayze and have several pictures with him and other trainees.

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    1. Well, send ’em my way, DeeDee . . . I’m out of material to post on Harkness . . . trying to push the audience over to http://OleagaPhotoGallery.wordpress.com (Milton Oleaga recently passed on). I have many . . . the last of his great dance shots. The best ones he gave to the Library of Performing Arts years ago. I’d love to put together a post of your material; give me a short bio and whatever ya got! Thanks.
      peace,
      mickey/michele morgan

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  8. I was a trainee at Harkness in 1969-1970. Teachers were Maria Vegh, Helen Greenford, Claudia Corday, Luigi for Jazz (and Hama). We also had a lovely classical Spanish dance teacher for whom I would translate from Spanish into English. We also had a great Afro-modern teacher. David Howard and Vincente Nebrado would occasionally give our class in Studio B. Years later, I almost met up again with David Howard who would come over to Zurich to teach at the Arena 225 summer dance sessions. Unfortunately, I missed him. My roommate, Andy Handler, went on to dance with the Houston Ballet and Kriistin Johnson with the Milwaukee ballet. I am writing down stories from my experiences in NY at that time and found this blog.

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    1. Claudia,
      Thank you so much for sharing your memories. This blog has gone in ways I never predicted, so if you’re interested in a bit of cultural trivia, you may enjoy the earlier posts. I was at Harkness first as a trainee in the summer of 1970 . . . we just brushed sleeves! Great to have your story. If you feel inspired to write more, I’d be happy to post words/images-Harkness-related (indirectly even). This blog has been seen by more than 17,000 people!
      The basis of the blog was to showcase the Harkness-dance-photography of the late (July 30, 2013 . . . 3 days before he was 84) when Milton Oleaga sent me all Harkness-related shots, I used those at http://HarknessBallet.wordpress.com. Many more photo books on other subjects (including the last few dance shots at various major NYC companies) are coming my way and I’ll post them at http://OleagaPhotoGallery.wordpress.com . . . did you know Milton? We’ve maintained a lovely literary friendship (of 2 bibliophiles) since 1990.
      The Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center has a huge collection that Milton donated to them . . . in dance of course: Joeffrey, ABT, NYCB, Harkness, and especially Graham and Limon. They’re probably gathering dust somewhere, as yet uncatalogued . . . or maybe not. I’d like to be there to ask.
      If you’d like to write me personally, please do: mickeypamo@gmail.com
      peace, and, there are no coincidences,
      mickey morgan

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  9. Hello. My name is Paul. I served as pianist for class with Robert and Nikita in Dallas from 1976-1978 and remained in contact with Robert until he died. I know much of this Harkness Ballet story from that association. The association is still a wonderful strong part of my life memory as is Rebekah’s voice when I occasionally answered the telephone in the Dallas penthouse. Hello to all from a 19th removed ‘danse cousin’

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    1. O ma gosh . . . Paul! How wonderful that you have emerged! Do you know this blog has been seen by 28,000 people in 70 countries! Heck! I’m Michele Morgan, of old on the blog . . . now mickey morgan and ecstatic executor of the photographs of the late Milton Oleaga. Luigi used to teach at Harkness, so there is an overlap . . . Luigi just died at 90, and thousands of dancers are inter-communicating as a result . . . at both http://OleagaPhotoGallery.wordpress.com and facebook page “Luigi Jazz Centre” Surely others will remember you . . . “like” the page and or follow the blogs. SOOO many more to post, never before seen! Welcome home!

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  10. Hello Harkness Dancers and Friends,

    My name is Leslie Streit and I am a filmmaker in California. In 2010 I began a 3 part project with Maria Vegh under the auspices of ODC Theater in San Francisco. It is all about Maria and her memories of Harkness Ballet and that very exciting time in New York when all of you pioneers and experimenters changed the face of dance forever. The project included a website (http://www.anamericanballetstory.com), and a 2 hour instructional video of Maria’s work (How To Make A Ballet Dancer). After finishing another documentary I am ready to start the third part of my project – a documentary of Maria’s memories of Harkness and the NY dance scene in the 1960’s to ’70’s. Time is of the essence as memories are fading.

    If any of you would like to participate or have memories you would like to share on film please email me at leslie@cinematiks.com or call me at 415-468-0772.

    Thank you all for your contributions and I look forward to talking to you.

    Best Wishes,
    Leslie

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    1. Wonderful, Leslie . . . be sure to get to Tanju and Pat Tuzer soon, as Tanju has colon cancer. I’ve alerted many others via this blog and facebook page “Former Harkness Ballet members” . . . hang in there. Thanks for your contribution to dance history. I only have little stories of Maria but others will fill your plate soon!
      may all go smoothly,
      mickey/michele morgan (Harkness 70-73)

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    2. Hi Leslie, this is so interesting! I was an original Harkness Ballet Trainee and spent the summer of 1965 in Watch Hill, RI. My most favorite teacher there was Vera Volkova. She greatly influenced me and the way I teach today. I worked as a trainee in New York at Harkness House for Ballet Arst during the fall of 1965. Ailley Ailey was my jazz teacher, Stuart Hodes my modern teacher along with Leon Fokine, Patricia Wilde and various others my ballet teachers. In January of 1966 I was asked to join the Harkness Ballet Company and toured Europe and N Africa with them. Because most of the programs for the tour were already printed when I joined the company, my name did not appear in most,,,not until May, I believe, when we were in Barcelona. I was Donna Stanley. Please let me hear from you as I am interested in hearing more!!

      Donna (Stanley) Martelli mjohn316min@yahoo.com, 317.255.7283.

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  11. Oh, what a joy to discover this blog. I was a friend of Robert’s in the late 1970s, when
    he was living in the Dallas penthouse. He was very kind to me. I remember meeting Nikita.
    He was not so kind. Robert was teaching at SMU at that time. And he appeared in a production of “Equus” at the Dallas Theatre Centre.

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    1. David,
      Please write me at mickeypamo@gmail.com . . . would love to share your stories with documentarian Leslie Streit, who is finishing up a doc on Maria Vegh . . . so glad you found us! Leslie is on Facebook and LinkedIn. Wonderful to find another Harknessite!
      peace,
      mickey (michele) morgan

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  12. I was not a member of the Harkness Ballet, but I have been wondering why it closed. Could you fill me in? Swimming at Watch Hill, RI, I used to watch the beautiful dancers rehearse outside some times. I later became a dancer myself. I was watching a show about Watch Hill last night which reminded me of my lovely summer afternoons looking up at the beautiful white house and the dancers in their tights. I googled the company and found some information, but no information about why it closed. Taylor Swift now owns that home. Maybe it would be nice if she would let you have your reunion there… she probably would…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gail,
      Check facebook 1) Former Harkness Ballet
      2) An American Ballet Story (an upcoming film on Harkness)
      Thanks for sharing!
      peace,
      mickey/michele morgan
      facebook: Harkness Ballet of New York

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