Remembering Joan Bayley, Ballet Dancer and Associate Choreographer at MGM
Joan Bayley, Balanchine dancer and associate choreographer during MGM’s golden era, passed away on January 5, 2022, just a few months shy of her 102nd birthday.
Born on May 23, 1920, Bayley trained in classical ballet with Muriel Stuart (she was one of Stuart’s “child protégés”) and Carmelita Maracci. She went on to dance for George Balanchine, both in the film On Your Toes and at New York City Ballet in Serenade. She was known for her long lines, impressive beats and strong, high-arched feet.
She found her niche at MGM, where she soon became a choreographer’s assistant (principally for Robert Alton) for many of the golden-era musicals: Her credits include everything from An American in Paris and White Christmas to There’s No Business Like Show Business and South Pacific.
Bayley helped stars like Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe get dance-ready, and also worked with established dancers like Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Donald O’Connor and George Chakiris.
Eventually, Bayley started teaching at major dance studios in Los Angeles, including Santa Monica’s Westside School of Ballet, where she taught until she was 99 years old. Many teachers say they could instantly recognize one of her students in their class, due to her emphasis on artistry, strength and steps that that are no longer practiced much. Her classes held a remarkable duality: Beginners felt welcome and often stayed for years, while the most advanced professionals sometimes couldn’t make it through and had to leave before the end, utterly exhausted but proclaiming how much better they were for the experience.
Bayley was married to the love of her life, Ray Weamer, for 60 years, until he passed away in 2004. An original Balanchine dancer, Weamer moved into dancing and coaching for Hollywood musicals and performed into his 50s.
Always humble, Bayley would never talk about the Hollywood films she’d worked on, or which stars she’d coached. She was known for her kindness, her work ethic, and the reverence and joy she created just by entering a room.
Bayley is survived by her daughter Deborah Galambos, her grandsons Guy Galambos, Andrew Galambos and their wives Shoshannah and Holly (respectively), as well as her great-grandchildren Noah Galambos, Emma Galambos, Ezra Galambos, Zane Galambos and several first cousins in the U.S. and Canada. Bayley was especially proud that Ezra is following in her footsteps as a dancer and has inherited her great grandmother’s graceful head, neck and arms.
For more information on Bayley visit joanbayley.com —Ashley Griffin