Margaret Craske (1892-1990)

British dancer and teacher Margaret Craske was a member of the Serge Diaghilev Ballets Russes in 1920. Because of a foot injury she was forced to leave the company after a year. When Craske returned to England she became Enrico Cecchetti's assistant. After Cecchetti's death Craske spent seven years studying the Hindu faith in India with guru Meher Baba. Miss Craske was one of the great teachers of the Cecchetti technique in London and the United States. She claimed to be the last of Cecchetti's disciples. Like Cecchetti, Miss Craske stressed exact technique and attention to detail. Her teaching emphasized balance and making students aware of the quality of movement.

Among her best known students while teaching at Sadler's Wells (now The Royal Ballet) in England were Antony Tudor, Hugh Laing, and Peggy van Praagh. After coming to the United States in the mid-1940's she became the first ballet mistress of Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre). Miss Craske also taught at Ballet Arts, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, Juilliard, and Manhattan Festival Ballet (now Ballet School New York).

During her teaching career in America almost every great American dancer had the privilege of having Margaret Craske cut him or her to the quick. Having been one of her many students, I learned the pure Cecchetti system. She believed, as I do, that movement must mean something -- "There is no room in the world for dancers running around the stage and then kicking their left ear -- that doesn't mean a thing."

I remember my first class with Miss Craske. My first impression was that she couldn't make a dancer. But being on the G. I. Bill I didn't have a choice but to take her class everyday. The G.I. Bill provided an opportunity for the veterans of World War II to further their education and classes were compulsory. Once I started to listen to her I knew I had found the teacher who was to direct my future. For many years I taught what I had learned from her. Then, using her theories, I began to add my own ideas and those I learned from my many other teachers. But I always returned to Miss Craske's lessons.

With C.W. Beaumont, Margaret Craske wrote "The Theory and Practice of Allegro in Classical Ballet" in 1930. With Derra de Meroda, Craske wrote a second book in 1956 -- "The Theory and Practice of Advanced Allegro in Classical Ballet." On her own she wrote "The Dance of Love" in 1980 and "Still Dancing With Love," a journal of her work with Meher Baba. Miss Craske served as a director of Meher Spiritual Center for 11 years. In 1986 she retired from teaching and died in Myrtle Beach, S.C, at the age of 97.

(First published March 1996)

Next: Leon Danielian (1920-1997)