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Who is Anna Ludmilla?

In 1963 Dame Margot Fonteyn took time out of her overly full schedule to write a six-page letter to a curious journalist inquiring about the American woman, this Anna Ludmilla, who was receiving recognition for coaching the famous prima ballerina. “‘She is a wonderful teacher” wrote Fonteyn. ‘with a great sense of real dancing movement combined with a sharp eye for details—and faults!’” Such a tribute, from the internationally renowned English ballerina, was not acquired easily. In fact, such laudatory compliments had required a journey of more than fifty years for the former American-trained ballerina and teacher, Jean Marie Kaley, and only after years of disciplined effort and the dues paid.

Jean Marie Kaley was born in 1903. At the age of fourteen she was a prima ballerina in Chicago’s Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet. She Russianized her name and in 1916 Anna Ludmilla had her U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall.

Ludmilla’s journey to become a professional ballerina began in the early 1900s when women comprised only eighteen percent of the workforce and jobs were mostly low-paying and non-professional, including domestic servant, telephone operator, or secretary. With the odds of becoming a professional ballerina against her, just how did this woman born in 1903 achieve such esteemed recognition sixty years later from the iconic Fonteyn?

Follow my lead, there is more to come . . . .