4/3/23 O&A NYC MORE HARKNESS STORIES: Claudia Folts- Beauty Is Never Easy, But Always Worth Striving Toward

Beauty Is Never Easy, But Always Worth Striving Toward

By Claudia Folts

I was late to the party.  By the time I walked through those beautiful doors at 4 East 75th St. in 1975/76 the decline had already begun.  Of course, I did not yet know this.  To me, it was a magical place – beautiful studios, art, elegant marble staircase, and everyone there was beautiful. As with all art, there is often darkness underneath, supporting the beauty. That was Harkness.

I was there at the beginning of the end.  Maria Vegh left at the end of my first summer, David Howard within a year.  Alphonso Cata and Willy Burman arrived with some professional dancers from Europe and added many of us trainees to the mix to create Ballet on Broadway at the Beacon Theatre. I remember we were hopeful that all would be well at Harkness.

But, as was always the case, change was in the air.  Suddenly Alphonso and Willy were gone, replaced by Nikita Talin and Robert Scevers.  Things became more erratic.  Although it was an unstable time, both difficult and confusing for me, important seeds were planted.  In the early 1990’s, after dancing professionally for a short time, then teaching ballet, those dormant seeds sprouted Tutu.com. It was the beginning of the internet.

From Nikita’s bullying and manipulating, I learned patience and perseverance. From David,  Maria, Rinita Exter, and Ann Hebard I learned that the best way to perfect something is to repeat the process over and over until you can do it in your sleep, and to focus on one thing at a time, perfecting the fine points.  I learned that creating true beauty comes from a blending of the imperfect, the unexpected, and the elegance of the invisible silence in between.  I learned to look at things three dimensionally, and not always linearly.

All of this has informed my life over the past forty-plus years.  It made it possible for me to see how to transform fabric into shapes that mirror parts of the dancer’s body and become tutus.  For me, it wasn’t the performing that made me happiest.  It was teaching others and constantly teaching and re-teaching myself.

Today, as Creative Director at Tutu.com, I work with a talented team of costumers.  We make custom tutus and other dance costumes for ballet companies, schools, university programs, television, film, and some fashion magazines.  We have a stock of rental tutus, and we teach others from all over the world to make tutus.

An art form that was dying thirty years ago is now thriving and constantly changing and developing.  Rebekah Harkness made a place where artists were developed and where artists could develop each other and their own outside-the-box ideas.  It was not a nurturing environment, but through all the disfunction and chaos, artists’ ideas were nurtured anyway, paving the way for many of us to develop new artistic ideas and concepts of our own.  As was confirmed at Harkness, beauty is never easy, but always worth striving toward.

An American Ballet Story, a documentary about the the all too short life of the Harkness Ballet, will have it’s New York live screening premiere on April 20th at the New York Public Library Performing Arts – Bruno Walter Auditorium. O&A NYC Magazine. Editor in Chief Walter Rutledge will moderate the post screening Q and A. An American Ballet Story takes us into the stages and studios</span> of the Harkness Ballet through the stories of the dancers who were there. The screening is free but you must reserve seating in advance. 

If you have a stories you would like to share about your Harkness experience please send your articles (250- 500 words recommended) and  photos to walt.harkness@gmail.com.

The auditorium capacity is only 192 seats to reserve your tickethttps://www.eventbrite.com/…/screening-of-an-american…

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