Margaret Mary Craske " Zuleka " 2
Margaret Craske (1892-1990)
British dancer and teacher Margaret Craske was a member of the Serge Diaghilev Ballets Russes in 1920. Because of a foot injury she was forced to leave the company after a year. When Craske returned to England she became Enrico Cecchetti's assistant. After Cecchetti's death Craske spent seven years studying the Hindu faith in India with guru Meher Baba. Miss Craske was one of the great teachers of the Cecchetti technique in London and the United States. She claimed to be the last of Cecchetti's disciples. Like Cecchetti, Miss Craske stressed exact technique and attention to detail. Her teaching emphasized balance and making students aware of the quality of movement.
Among her best known students while teaching at Sadler's Wells (now The Royal Ballet) in England were Antony Tudor, Hugh Laing, and Peggy van Praagh. After coming to the United States in the mid-1940's she became the first ballet mistress of Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre). Miss Craske also taught at Ballet Arts, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, Juilliard, and Manhattan Festival Ballet (now Ballet School New York).
During her teaching career in America almost every great American dancer had the privilege of having Margaret Craske cut him or her to the quick. Having been one of her many students, I learned the pure Cecchetti system. She believed, as I do, that movement must mean something -- "There is no room in the world for dancers running around the stage and then kicking their left ear -- that doesn't mean a thing."
I remember my first class with Miss Craske. My first impression was that she couldn't make a dancer. But being on the G. I. Bill I didn't have a choice but to take her class everyday. The G.I. Bill provided an opportunity for the veterans of World War II to further their education and classes were compulsory. Once I started to listen to her I knew I had found the teacher who was to direct my future. For many years I taught what I had learned from her. Then, using her theories, I began to add my own ideas and those I learned from my many other teachers. But I always returned to Miss Craske's lessons.
With C.W. Beaumont, Margaret Craske wrote "The Theory and Practice of Allegro in Classical Ballet" in 1930. With Derra de Meroda, Craske wrote a second book in 1956 -- "The Theory and Practice of Advanced Allegro in Classical Ballet." On her own she wrote "The Dance of Love" in 1980 and "Still Dancing With Love," a journal of her work with Meher Baba. Miss Craske served as a director of Meher Spiritual Center for 11 years. In 1986 she retired from teaching and died in Myrtle Beach, S.C, at the age of 97.
(First published March 1996)
Courtesy of ;
1983 : The Awakener Magazine
Volume 20 Number 2
My special link to Margaret: Meher Baba's first letter to me (1947) was written in her hand.
I first met "Miss Craske," as her ballet pupils invariably call her, in the fall of 1946, when she arrived from London to take up her position as ballet mistress of Lucia Chase's Ballet Theatre. It was her first job on her return from seven years in India with Baba... years that had told on her health. She was not sure she could handle such a position, not only because of her health but because of her long absence from the professional world, her total immersion in the incredible discipline of following the Avatar on His home territory, as part of His intimate Circle. But Baba loves to throw you from one opposite of maya to the other, from absolute seclusion to great worldly activity, just as He alternated His seclusions with His whirlwind public darshan tours and work with the masses.
Margaret was born in Norfolk, England in 1892. Her father was owner of a small coastal fleet. She started studying dance at an early age; and was always very athletic. At 18 she took up ballet and progressed quickly. She studied with the famous Enrico Cecchetti in the private London studio he ran from 1918 to 1923, while he served as teacher for the Diaghilev Ballet Company. She says of Cecchetti, "He was already old when I met him... he was a darling... he would bend his head and look under his eyes at you as if you were a criminal. And he did occasionally give us a tap with the stick. That's not legal now. He was a very fine teacher. One loved him."
At the end of her study with him, the Maestro gave her a certificate indicating she was qualified to carry on his teaching tradition — a rare honor. Today her own book, The Theory and Practice of Allegro in Classical Ballet (1920), co-authored with critic Cyril Beaumont, is a classic reference on the famed Cecchetti method, and she is considered the world's leading authority.
She danced with the Diaghilev Ballet Company but her performing career ended abruptly with tuberculosis of the Achilles tendon. Thus she took up her incredible career as a teacher. She founded her own ballet school in London in the Thirties. She is philosophical about the loss of a stage career: "I hurt a tendon. I couldn't dance for some time, and then I was getting older ... so what!" she says now.
Margaret Craske died on February 18, 1990 at the age of 97 at Grand
Strand Hospital in Myrtle Beach. Her ashes were brought to the Women’s Cemetery in Meherabad and interred in a grave beside Elizabeth Patterson. Margaret was among the group who welcomed Meher Baba on his first visit to England in 1931. This group included Delia de Leon, Will and Mary Backett, Charles Purdom, Kitty Davy and Margaret Craske. Meher Baba made a profound impact on all of them. Their meetings took place in London and in East Challacombe, Devon, where Meredith Starr had established a spiritual retreat. Margaret Craske described her first meeting with Baba. “…I went into the room and was completely won over by the love which seemed to permeate his whole personality.”
A ballet teacher with her own school in London, she had danced with the
Ballet Russe and the Royal Ballet, but gave the school away in 1941 to
sail for India to spend seven years in Meher Baba’s ashram at Meherabad. Upon her return to England in 1946, she was appointed ballet mistress of American Ballet Theatre and sailed for America, where, Meher Baba told her, she would “lay cables” for him. Laughing, Baba opened His hands, and then He spelled out on His alphabet board, “You must go; I have made you my link in America.”
Over the following years, she also taught at the Metropolitan Opera
Ballet, the Julliard School and Manhattan School of Ballet. Some of her
dance students became followers of Meher Baba. In 1987, Miss Craske
retired from teaching and moved to the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle
Beach, SC, where she was a member of the Board of Directors.
Margaret Craske (AKA Margherita Craskova), the prodigy dancer with the Ballet Russe who later taught in New York until her death in the mid-90s, writes movingly and convincingly about her experiences with a remarkable spiritual figure. That person, Meher Baba, was so sensitive as to awaken her heart. He opened an entire world of love and art for her. The lessaons she learned have immediate relevance to us -- whether or not we see ourselves as "dancers." Margaret Craske was truly an amazing woman.
Edward Henkel 2/25/2022
BASIC TEACHING POINTS STRESSED IN THE CLASSES OF MARGARET CRASKE AND TEX HIGHTOWER
( This statement comes mainly out of my experience in their classes, what Ms Craske said and my understanding of the Cecchetti and Craske written material.)
1) Foremost to me as a student of dance, studying with Ms Craske, Tex Hightower and Sallie Wilson, was the point that the rhythmic structure of a ballet step is as much a part of the shape of the step as is the trajectory of the bodies movement through space. The step is not the steps shape without the rhythmic structure.
While I had teachers of ballet give general statements of dancing to or with the music; it wasn’t till I studied with Ms Craske and Tex Hightower that I was challenged with attending to the musical details of the specific fundamental steps themselves.
For example in the battement frappe there is a slight pause at the end of the extension of the frappe.
This was very hard for me as I had never learned about that rhythmic point before. It didn’t seem natural at first and took a lot of practice. But that pause shows itself in the more advanced steps such as the suspended moment at the top of a jete and in the spring releve.
Before my studies with Ms Craske, Tex Hightower and Sallie Wilson, I thought the only difference between a tendu and degage was that in the tendue the foot stays in contact with the floor. In the degague the metatarsal brushes off the floor. Almost always I saw and did these steps as an even flow of the action, either slow or fast according to the music.
But, with the tendue, Ms Craske taught that there is a rhythmic accent out to the extended pointe of the foot and in the degage the accent is in, to the closed position. Again the rhythmic structure is as essential to the shape of these steps as is the trajectory of body movement itself.
This attention to rhythm was stressed throughout the whole lexicon of basic ballet movement vocabulary. Whether it was the glissade, chasse, petite battement, fuette, etc. etc. the rhythm was as important to the shape of the step as was the physical shaping in space.
I was also made aware that the steps that are the building blocks of the more advanced work in classical dancing, done properly, provide a safe and anatomically efficient use of the body and protect against injury.
2) Balance as an ongoing action.
This involved the building of a technique and stamina for adjusting the body, in a moving balance.
One needs to adjust throughout the changing trajectory of shapes, in relation to a plumb line. This was something that was constantly addressed in Ms Craske and Tex Hightower classes.
Using Cecchetti rules of balance in full body actions and practicing on the simpler basic movements, will affect the ease of the more difficult moves. This was a fundamental ongoing aspect of their training.
Starting with the premise that in a neutral position of standing, there is a plumb line through which the skeletal weight and balance passes. Any movement of the arm, legs and torso, pulls the weight away from the plum line and so the balance needs to be maintained along that plumb line before completion of the movement. Balance was always approached from the ongoing moving action that it is. Positions weren’t to be held, they were to be recreated or evolved.
Three examples of rules governing this practice:
a) The practice and accomplishment of the legs and arms, simultaneously arriving at an end point. Achieving this while passing through and around the plum line, least disturbs the plum line and creates grace and ease of movement. Many of the adagio combinations were practiced to achieve this skill along with building strength and stamina.
b) Epaulement. Considered by many at this point as an old fashioned stylized action, epaulement in fact has great purpose and use. For certain moving balances whether adagio or allegro, the epaulement shifts the shoulders into a narrower position closer along the plum line. This allows for ease of movement. (The epaulement is experienced as initiating from under the scapula). Not only an added expressive move in the vocabulary of dance, epaulement can bring life to the upper torso in a way that invigorates the reach of the arms and helps lighten the load on the weight baring lower extremities. Epaulement enables the torso to stay alive and not held or frozen.
c) Tilting, bending and turning of the head. By paying careful attention to the placement of the head the dancer is able to shift weight over the standing leg with greater ease and speed. In shifting of the body weight the head is one of the heaviest parts of the body so proper placement is essential to an efficient moving balance. We would often mark through the upper body movements in a combination to clarify where the head, eyes, arms and upper back were going to be placed, before putting together the combination.
3) Forcing: In modern day parlance we might say that forcing would be over engaging muscles designed to initiate movement in order to stabilize the body in balance.
But the stabilizers are much deeper to the core and skeleton and work synergistically with neuro-transmitters to establish equilibrium and balance and don’t need the initiators to over work and constrict the movement.
This was an area that Ms Craske was really hard on me about and it seemed at times I couldn’t even begin a movement when she would point out that I was forcing. I confess that of Ms Craske teaching this had to have been my most resistant reaction to the work both physically and emotionally. But surrendering this willful habit had the most positive effect on my dancing, when I achieved glimpses of it.
Also I should mention that both Ms Craske and Tex Hightower would stress that if a choreographer asked for something different from how a step is trained in class, of course you would do that. All movement was legitimate in choreography. But for the sake of training the body to dance, this classical approach to training the body builds the strength and agility necessary to sustain the rigors of a professional dancer.
4) Probably the most challenging process for both teacher and student is the actual training of the steps. We may know a step but were not aware of how we we’re doing it. So Ms Craske would point out to a student some aspect, in let’s say, a moving balance. She might point out where their body is not adjusting to the plum line or the rhythm.
All sorts of reactions could occur at this point from acceptance of the correction to resistance. But until the student was able to be made aware, self-reflect, and see where the problem might be, they could not move forward in the process. That would be the first step.
Then the second step is that the student needs to make the necessary efforts to change what they are doing and work to correct it.
Thirdly, the movement has to be practiced to the point where it becomes automatic to the body and the dancer needn’t think about it.
All this was the real work of the training in Ms Craskes class and could bring up resistance internally in the process.
Class was to work on what you couldn’t do, not what you could do.
There could be great frustration in this process; not being able to understand or in understanding, not being able to achieve the desired results.
This could bring up strong emotions at times.
On the other hand making real gains and achievement in these fundamental matters brought a dancing confidence and pleasure and ease, like nothing else.
In saying this, I need to add that no step was disassembled for correction without being put back together and danced at whatever level of understanding we had reached.
5) The final results could be described as the end being greater than the sum of its parts. It’s what the dancer brings of themselves to the integration of musical expression, coordination and poise. This can’t be taught, but by laying the ground work in the first 4 points of training that I have mentioned, there is a greater possibility that this can occur. Both Ms Craske and Tex Hightower could see what the dancer was bringing to the work and would encourage this in every class. By allowing the dancer time to bring what they were learning back into their dancing and then observing the results, Ms Craske would coach what appeared from the outside, as a very small point, but that seemed to have a crucial affect on the results as a whole. It really became a melding of the teacher/student experience which I was fortunate to witness and at times had this ah ha affect when everything came together.
I have often looked back on those first 3 years of my study with Ms Craske and Tex Hightower and think I could never have gone through that again or if I had come to them any later in my dancing, I couldn’t have done it. I had so many bad habits and had to start from scratch and it felt grueling to me both in physical effort and understanding.
Tex comments in class:
Eduardo Vilaro remembers, “If that’s a posse, my name’s Louise!”
Dana McBroom Manno, ”Well, for once that looks like a human leg”
New York Times
Margaret Craske Is Dead at 97; Directed Met Opera Ballet School
By JENNIFER DUNNING
Published: February 23, 1990
When Ballet Theater and the Metropolitan Opera House collaborated to open a school at the Metropolitan in 1950, she remained there to teach. It later became the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, and Miss Craske became its director during her nearly-20-year association with the school. She left in 1968 to become ballet mistress of the Manhattan Festival Ballet. She also taught at Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Dance, and for many summers at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. She continued to teach at Manhattan School into her 90's. Among her students were Melissa Hayden, Hugh Laing, Nora Kaye, Carmen Mathe, Paul Taylor and Sallie Wilson.
Injury Ended Performing
Miss Craske was born in Norfolk, England. She began her professional career dancing in music halls. Serge Diaghilev chose her for his company in 1920 after seeing her in a class taught by Cecchetti. When a serious foot injury forced her to stop performing, Cecchetti asked her to help him teach at his London studio. In 1931, she set off for India to study with Meher Baba, an Indian guru. She remained with him for seven years and continued as a disciple for the rest of her life.
An austere, private woman with a sense of humor, Miss Craske was an extremely popular teacher who was known for the consistency and clarity of classes in which she would sometimes spend hours on a single step. ''She was a tiny woman - maybe all of five feet tall - with little feet in pink ballet slippers,'' a student, Nancy Reed, told Klasina VanderWerse for a 1983 feature on Miss Craske in Ballet News. ''She'd wear bell-bottomed trousers to teach in, and her feet would dart out of the trousers like hummingbirds, the pants flapping.''
Like Cecchetti, Miss Craske stressed exact technique and attention to detail in her teaching, emphasizing balance and encouraging her students to pay attention to the quality of movement and the anatomical and physiological workings of the body.
Miss Craske was thought by many to have influenced Tudor's choreographic style, though she herself dismissed the notion. She and Tudor ''nipped'' at each other's teaching, as one student put it, as colleagues at the Metropolitan, with Tudor sometimes teaching students wild variations on the strict steps and gestures she had taught them the day before.
Like Tudor, however, she believed that movement must ''mean something,'' as she put it. ''There is no room in the world for dancers running around and around the stage and then kicking their right ear,'' she said in a 1983 interview. ''That doesn't mean a thing.''
Miss Craske retired from teaching in 1986, moving to Myrtle Beach, where she had served as a director of the Meher Spiritual Center for 11 years.
She was the author of two standard references on the Cecchetti technique: ''The Theory and Practice of Allegro in Classical Ballet,'' written with C. W. Beaumont in 1950, and ''The Theory and Practice of Advanced Allegro in Classical Ballet,'' written with Derra de Moroda in 1956. She also wrote ''The Dance of Love,'' published in 1980, and the recent ''Still Dancing with Love,'' a journal of her work with Meher Baba.
New York Theatre Ballet
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
New York Theatre Ballet was founded in 1978 by its artistic director, Diana Byer. Dedicated to the principles of the Cecchetti-Diaghilev tradition, the company both reprises classic masterworks and produces original ballets.
The roster of New York Theatre Ballet includes choreographers Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, August Bournonville, Michel Fokine, John Taras, Antony Tudor, and other legendary artists. The company tours its family and adult programs both nationally and abroad, and has become the most widely seen chamber ballet company in the United States.
MISSION | Dedicated to the principles of the Cecchetti-Diaghilev tradition, New York Theatre Ballet revives classic masterworks while also nurturing and producing new ballets.
OVERVIEW | New York Theatre Ballet was founded in 1978 by its artistic director, Diana Byer. It is the most widely seen chamber ballet company in the United States. Hailed by Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times as "a discreet little pearl in the oyster of New York dance," NYTB has earned acclaim for its restoration and revival of small masterworks by great choreographers and for its innovative ballets based on children's literature.
NYTB tours its family and adult programs both nationally and abroad, and it operates the nationally-recognized, pioneering LIFT Community Service Program. Its audiences know the Company for its theatrical expressiveness, high production quality, excellent technique, and accessibility. Its aesthetic roots are in the Cecchetti-Diaghilev tradition of the Ballet Russe. The world-renowned teacher and ballet mistress Margaret Craske, brought to the United States by the great choreographer Antony Tudor, passed this tradition on to NYTB.
HISTORY | For nearly 30 years, NYTB has produced for adult audiences dozens of contemporary ballets and classic masterworks. Its roster includes choreographers Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Auguste Bournonville, William Dollar, Michel Fokine, John Taras, Antony Tudor, and other legendary artists. During the 2006-07 season, as a 100th birthday tribute to her, it presented a special program of ballets choreographed by Agnes de Mille, including original dances from Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, Okahoma!, and Carousel. In August 2007, NYTB performed its A. de Mille Celebration at the Inside/Out Festival at Jacob's Pillow. The Company will return to Jacob's Pillow on July 2, 2008 to perform its Signatures 08: A Celebration of Legends & Visionaries program.
Margaret Craske died on February 18, 1990 at the age of 97 at Grand Strand Hospital in Myrtle Beach. Her ashes were brought to the Women’s Cemetery in Meherabad and interred in a grave beside Elizabeth Patterson.
Margaret was among the group who welcomed Meher Baba on his first visit to England in 1931. This group included Delia de Leon, Will and Mary Backett, Charles Purdom, Kitty Davy and Margaret Craske. Meher Baba made a profound impact on all of them. Their meetings took place in London and in East Challacombe, Devon, where Meredith Starr had established a spiritual retreat. Margaret Craske described her first meeting with Baba. “…I went into the room and was completely won over by the love which seemed to permeate his whole personality.”
A ballet teacher with her own school in London, she had danced with the Ballet Russe and the Royal Ballet, but gave the school away in 1941 to sail for India to spend seven years in Meher Baba’s ashram at Meherabad. Upon her return to England in 1946, she was appointed ballet mistress of American Ballet Theatre and sailed for America, where, Meher Baba told her, she would “lay cables” for him. Laughing, Baba opened His hands, and then He spelled out on His alphabet board, “You must go; I have made you my link in America.”
Over the following years, she also taught at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, the Julliard School and Manhattan School of Ballet. Some of her dance students became followers of Meher Baba.
In 1987, Miss Craske retired from teaching and moved to the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle
Beach, SC, where she was a member of the Board of Directors.
Courtesy of : http://www.ompoint.com/
Margaret Craske (Nov. 26th 1892 - Feb. 18th, 1990)
Margaret Bernstein's Godmother and namesake, Margaret Craske, was an acclaimed ballet teacher who introduced Margaret Bernstein's parents to one another. Both of Margaret Bernstein's parents had been ballet students of Margaret Craske. Margaret Bernstein’s mother, Bunty Kelley studied with her as a girl growing up in London, and Margaret Bernstein's father, Harry Bernstein, had been a student of Miss Craske at the Juilliard School in New York City. Margaret Craske also became a permanent fixture at the Metropolitan Opera House, where she taught ballet until she almost got run over by a New York City taxicab at the age of ninety-four. She spent the last years of her life residing at the Meher Center in Myrtle Beach at South Carolina where she entertained guests with her stories marked of her dry wit.
Margaret Craske was definitely one of the most influential people in Margaret Bernstein's life. Through her weekly contact, she not only gave an appreciation of the spiritual world, but also taught what it meant to aspire to excellence in all things. She was not only one of the world's most excellent teachers, but a strong dynamic woman with a sense of humor, a tenacious code of moral and work ethic, and a fiery personality. Although she passed away twenty years ago this month at age ninety-seven, her memory lives vibrantly on in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved her.
MEMOIRS OF THE FRIVOLOUS THREE
: An evening with Margaret Craske, Kitty Davy
and Delia DeLeon
September 10, 1988
Produced by : Meher Spiritual Center, Inc.
( Not the Original Front cover )