4/13/23 O&A NYC MORE HARKNESS STORIES: Cheryl Clark- A Few 1966 and Beyond Harkness Memories for Walter Rutledge

A Few 1966 and Beyond Harkness Memories for Walter Rutledge
By Cheryl Clark

Dear Walter,

I am sending you the above attached Playbill Legacy Bio when I received the 2019 Legacy Award (that is housed now in the Jerome Robbins collection at Lincoln Center for Performing Arts Library…). It mentions my great appreciation for Mrs. Harkness and Patricia Wilde, 1st Director of Harkness House who recommended me to Mrs. H. Both gave me my full scholarship at age 15 at Harkness House for Ballet Arts, and it mentions many of the great teachers, etc.  In another article I will try to send you, I mention the great pianists that Mrs. Harkness hired to play class for us training- hugely inspiring, particularly John Anderson and John Childs.

My mother had made her debut as a concert pianist at age 16, so I was really excited for Mom to sit and observe class when she got to visit my training and witness these great pianists!  I was selected to perform for Mrs. Harkness within a couple of months having received my scholarship, and Miss Wilde (Patricia, had me go first out of we advanced girls from our pointe class, so Mrs. Harkness could see where her money was going!).

I was taught the Don Q variation, fan and all!  I think Mrs. Harkness really took to me from that moment on, not just for my talent, but she probably learned I was only 15 and from Kansas City, Missouri!  As an aside, I am a huge fan of writer Craig Unger, and it wasn’t until I read his great book “Blue Blood” in 1988 that I learned that Mrs. Harkness hated St. Louis, Missouri so much, which is where she was from, that she had pilots fly around St. Louis so she would NOT even be near that city!

A special treat for me, is that I had a mention in the June 27th, 1983 article by Craig Unger, The Heiress, in  New York Magazine. The quote, “Out of several hundred dancers trained by either the school or the company, many went on to have remarkable careers. Rebekah was the first to train or showcase Helgi Tomasson, Kirk Peterson, Zane Wilson, Marjorie Tallchief, Colleen Neary, Larry Rhodes, Lone Isaksen, Cheryl Clark, and Elisabeth Carroll, among other dancers.  Choreographers like Donald Saddler went on to success on Broadway as well as in the ballet.”

After training for 2 years, I was asked to join the 1st Harkness Ballet Co. of New York at age 17 and flew to Monte Carlo where the company was stationed.  I turned 18 six months later there in that beautiful city.  I mention that in the film clip for An American Ballet Story that you will be having a Q and A upon the Screening of the documentary April 20th.  As I told you, Walter, I regret I cannot be there in person, but I look forward to hearing all about the event.

Wishing you all best wishes.

Cheryl Clark



DEC. 9, 2019

Cheryl has been an Actors’ Equity member for 54 years, appearing with the Dance Ensemble at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, MO. at the tender age of 15.  Beforehand, Cheryl had featured roles as “Baby June” in “Gypsy” with the great Gisele MacKenzie, young “Kim” as Robert Horton’s daughter in “Showboat”, and “Bet” in “Oliver” to name a few!   She had her first tap class at age 3 when her mother feared she couldn’t skip!   Her great tap and jazz teachers in KC. were Saundra Lee Schneider and Shirley Marley (who was the teen-age dance partner with Ronnie Lewis!)  In from NYC was Harding Dorn, the resident choreographer at Starlight and became Cheryl’s first ballet teacher.  She ate, drank, and slept ballet, becoming obsessed!  Additionally, Cheryl trained with Tatiana Dokoudovska at the KC Conservatory, founder of the KC Civic Ballet, which Cheryl joined and performed her 1st Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Les Sylphides.   Both Harding and Miss Tania were former members of Ballet Russe.  Cheryl left Kansas City for NYC. at 15 receiving scholarships at both SAB and Harkness House for Ballet Arts.  Balanchine ballerina Patricia Wilde, as 1st Director of Rebekah Harkness’s  school, recommended a full scholarship/apprentice spot for Cheryl.  She is forever grateful to both Miss Wilde and Mrs. Harkness for her incredible training the next two years. Not only in ballet, but jazz with Matt Mattox, guest teachers Jack Cole, Hindu with Cole’s partner, Beatrice Kraft, Modern with Stuart Hodes, African with Percival Borde, and guest teachers from the Bolshoi and Royal Ballets.    At age 17, Cheryl became the youngest ballerina in the Original Harkness Ballet of NY., 1st Company. Under the direction of Lawrence Rhodes and Benjamin Harkarvy, Cheryl traveled the world over the next two years, then wanted to take a break and focus on academics.  She auditioned and received a full scholarship in the Ballet Dept.at Indiana University helping with expenses- Cheryl had learned that IU was one of the finest Music Dept. in the USA, as her younger sister, Catherine, had just received a scholarship in Opera.  It was a fantastic academic experience, as well as stepping up for the Ballet Dept. and performing “Swanhilda” in “Coppelia”, tutored by the great Anton Dolin.  Cheryl yearned to go back to NYC, and upon returning, within one week, after seeing an ad in Back Stage, she auditioned for Baayork Lee for the Bus and Truck of “Promises Promises”.  Cheryl loved the choreography so much, she just had to do it! Signed a contract to play one-night stands for the next 8 months, and Baayork advised her to take voice lessons and acting whenever she could!  Fortunately, the wardrobe master was a former singer!   Michael Bennett came to see their run-through at the Astonia Hotel, and her one note from him was “girl in black”…!  Little did she realize that after that tour, her 1st Broadway audition was for Bob Fosse 1972 “Pippin”.  Cheryl was called by Fosse and his PSM, Phil Friedman, a few weeks later as she was performing in Baayork’s  2nd “Promises…” tour with Donald O’Connor &  Betty Buckley. Fosse asked her to become the Original Swing dancer/singer in “Pippin” and one year later replaced Ann Reinking.  Cheryl then appeared in Fosse’s 1975 “Chicago” which she originated “POP” in “Cell Block Tango” and is heard on the Cast Album. Cheryl then played “Cassie” on Broadway for Michael Bennett in “A Chorus Line”.  Cheryl had been inspired seeing Donna McKechnie in “Company”, brilliantly dancing and singing (in a vocal range Cheryl shares), and that had changed her perspective in only being a ballerina.  Cheryl performed over 3,000 “Cassie’s in Donna’s Tony Award winning role. When Burt Reynolds bought the rights to” ACL” for his Jupiter Theatre, T. Michael Reed directed and asked Cheryl to play “Cassie”.  While there, she formulated her first “Triple Threat Clinic” and has taught at 2 major Universities, Community colleges and dance studios.  Cheryl continued her academics at NYU while performing in “Chicago” and “A Chorus Line”.   Also being a SAG-AFTRA member for over 40 years, Cheryl appeared in numerous commercials, film and tv, and choreographed through the years, most notably benefits for children spinal cord injuries/ rehabilitation at the Beverly Hills Hotel.   Cheryl’s prayers were answered, after years of dancing, giving birth to her daughter, Mimi Page. Her greatest blessing!  Raising a child is equally creative and as intense as her love of theatre.  Cheryl is grateful to be honored by DancersOver40, a member since 2007, which thanks to President John Sefakis and board members, reaching out, so we professionals out of town can see all the incredible panels and connections with our former colleagues!  Cheryl’s highlight with DancersOver40 was the reunion of her Cell Block Tango mates with our great Chita Rivera for a benefit in 2012!   A special thank you to all our Sponsors, particularly The Actors Fund.

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