America’s Forgotten Ballerina

In the early 1900s women could not vote in U.S. federal elections and career opportunities were limited to mainly domestic servant or secretary, and only until she married and then bore children, in that order. Jean Marie Kaley, at age twelve, was not like other women in her family, her sex, her age group, or her lower socioeconomic class, however. She was going to be a ballerina—an American Pavlova, she had decided. But good girls from families such as hers, and from neighborhoods like hers, did not paint their faces, wear risqué costumes, show bare legs and trot themselves across music hall stages before loud, raucous audiences, primarily comprised of men. Despite her father’s harsh objections of his only child becoming one of the bad girls of ballet, and the odds against her succeeding, Jean was determined, and had it not been for a horrible tragedy, she might never have had the opportunity to try.

To be continued . . . .

Author: cynthiacrainauthor

Cynthia D. Crain is a dance writer and education consultant primarily in the area of dance history. She has a doctorate in education, curriculum development, emphasis in movement and dance therapy; an M.A. in Dance, emphasis in dance research; and a B.A. in Education, emphasis in dance, with a minor in music. Crain owned a dance school in Texas. Her dance experience (partial listing) includes teaching in, and performing with, private studios in Texas, Virginia and Georgia. Her university teaching and performing experience includes Adjunct Professor and Research Associate, therapeutic recreation and dance; and Instructor in dance in both the physical education and performing arts departments at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. Her dance training (partial list) with notable teachers includes Richard Gibson, San Francisco Ballet; Bob Spaur, Ruth Page’s company in Chicago; Frano Jelencic, English National Ballet (formerly London Festival Ballet); and Anna Ludmilla—Anton Dolin’s partner, and co-founder of National Ballet of Panama, and Margot Fonteyn’s coach. Crain has three published biographies. A forthcoming book is the Autobiography of Robert Barnett. She has published books and articles in the field of dance and movement therapy. Crain is a dance writer and education consultant. She is a member of the Dance Studies Association (formerly the Society of Dance History Scholars, which recently merged with the Congress on Research in Dance); Biographers International Organization (BIO); and National Dance Education Organization. She serves as a trustee on the Atlanta Ballet board. In addition, she is on the Education Committee of The Atlanta Ballet, Centre for Dance Education.

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