Marion Fay Mease Childrey, aged 9.
In Memorium: For Shannon and Matthew and in memory of Jack Childrey, Marion’s kind husband. From Shelley [Markham] Pinto-Duschinsky. I was one of her first pupils, along with Brooke Davila.
Marion Mease Childrey (b.1921- d. April, 2011). My first dance teacher. I discovered her death today, March, 2013.
Marion Fay Mease Childrey dancing in the late 1940s.
One of the disadvantages, if it be one, of living far from your roots, is that you remember dear people as you last saw them. Therefore, it is shocking to find out that they have grown old and have died, while in your head, you are still communicating with them as they were and as you were. ‘Miss Mease’ never seems far away, much as one would internalize a mother. Miss Mease (‘Marion’) was my first dance teacher. She planted the seed and nourished it. Love for her was somehow inseparable from loving dance.
In the summer of 1954, she lived with Brooke and me in New York City at The Great Northern Hotel, next to Carnegie Hall. From there Brooke and I went each day to study dance in famous schools (Agnes DeMille was teaching at Carnegie Hall at the time). While we were in classes all day, she attended sessions which taught dance repertory, which she could convey to her students in the autumn. One of my first real dances was ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’. Each evening, Marion would ask us to write out the classes of the day. This improved our French and our understanding of the building process in dance, not to mention our memory.
1935 when Marion was 14.
I enclose some of her obituary from the local paper in Richmond, Virginia : No words can do her justice. Gentle, yet perfectionist. I can hear her voice correcting me. She, herself, was an accomplished dancer.
Marion Fay Mease Childrey danced for 69 years before she closed her ‘Marion Mease School of Dance’ in Richmond in 1993.
“She was dancing until she was 80,” said her daughter, Shannon Kruep of Bumpass.
“She couldn’t quite face a total retirement. Her life without dancing — she couldn’t see that.”
She began dance lessons when she was 3 years old with Richmond dance maven, Elinor Fry. In a 1993 Richmond Times-Dispatch interview, Miss Mease confessed, “I’ve danced all my life, and I’m ignorant of everything in the world but dancing.”
But many of those who took classical ballet, pointe, classical jazz from Miss Mease over the years, say she taught much more than dance.
Marion Fay Mease Childrey at work during the dress rehearsal for “Everything Goes,” her last production at the Mosque, now the Landmark Theater, in 1991.
“There was a magic about her. We all adored her and would do anything she told us. She would correct us if we didn’t do it right, but it was more of a suggestion, and we would work so hard to get it right because she was so wonderful.”
When Miss Mease’s students arrived at the studio — a pink-trimmed pair of converted houses at 3453 W. Cary St. in Carytown — they felt special.
Miss Mease strikes a dancer’s pose at 16 on the roof of Thalhimers in downtown Richmond.
“You came as if you were a ballerina, which made it very serious for little girls. We dressed in what people who were really ballerinas did. Even the little kids learned the proper (French) terms for ballet.”
At 16, Miss Mease had begun teaching at Fry’s studio after school. She spent summers honing teaching skills in New York venues such as [Balanchine’s ] School of American Ballet. She opened her own studio in 1950 and did not go into semi-retirement until 1986, teaching three days a week while her daughter and assistants taught the other classes. She sold the studio in 1993, but continued to teach private lessons in a borrowed North Side studio.
Miss Mease 17, demonstrates a graceful move for her mentor, Elinor Fry, at Westhampton College.
Miss Mease “worked, lived and breathed dance,” her daughter said. “She considered herself one of the luckiest people to be able to do that.
“To so many, she passed on a lifelong love of dance and music. I don’t ever remember a time in my home when we didn’t have music. She cherished letters from her former students, who sometimes many years later wrote her about how much dancing in her studio meant to them.”
After finally retiring, Miss Mease read more — often to a blind friend. She decided she wanted to learn to cook — “we survived it,” her daughter said. And she “was thrilled to have a grandchild.
Marion Fay Mease Childrey dances with her daughter, Shannon, in 1962: