October 19, 2011

In Memoriam

Tony Stevens (1948–2011)

Tony Stevens’ musical theater class at Steps on Broadway was always packed. From current Broadway stars to former musical theater veterans, his students all came for the same reason: Stevens’ ability to share his vast knowledge and complex choreography, with an unabashed appetite for fun. His vibrant spirit, gentle manner, and passion for all things dance filled the studio—along with the George Michael tunes he played (regulars called it the “Church of George Michael”). Stevens focused on alignment and technique rooted in ballet, as well as the work of Jack Cole, Peter Gennaro, and Martha Graham during the lengthy warm-up. Then throughout the week, he tweaked his combinations, playing and exploring. At 63, amidst a still-flourishing career, the twinkly-eyed pied piper of dance died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Stevens had an illustrious career long before he became a well-known teacher. He first hit the Broadway boards in 1969 in The Fig Leaves Are Falling, followed by a slew of other productions including The Boy Friend and On the Town. He was Bob Fosse’s assistant on the original production of Chicago and later restaged parts of Fosse’s work for Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life in 2005. In 1974, the taped workshops he organized with Michon Peacock were to serve as the basis for the legendary A Chorus Line. Later he choreographed dances for several films and off-Broadway productions.

Due to his modesty, many of Stevens’ students never knew the extent of his credentials. But they knew and felt his inspiration and encouragement to “Dance in the moment!” and “Tell the story!” They returned week after week to experience the pure joy he offered—in and out of the studio. —Lauren Kay

Pyotr Pestov (1929–2011)

Pyotr Antonovich Pestov’s articulate teaching style and vast league of star alumni (Ratmansky, Malakhov, Tsiskaridze, and many others) meant that he was already referred to as “Peter the Great” long before his death in July. In Perm, Pestov was one of the first pupils of Alexander Pushkin. As a senior student, he started mentoring a rowdy group of young boys sent to live at the school when the war left them without parents or homes. After their eyes lit up seeing their first ballet performance, they begged Pestov to teach them to dance. His teaching career went on to include 33 years at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and 15 years in Stuttgart at the John Cranko School (see “Teacher’s Wisdom,” Oct. 2009).

Chesnaya (honest) is the Russian word I remember Pestov saying most. All of us boys had to be honest with ourselves and our art form through the best work ethic imaginable. Pestov was small, humble, witty, and mainly spoke Russian. He demanded acute musicality, strong character, and perfect manners during his classes. He could work on one step for an agonizing hour. When he wanted to get a point across, he stuttered. He often made grown men cry, but his jokes inspired uncontrollable laughter. He was famous both for extreme attention to detail and for educating his students outside of the studio. Pestov brought us to museums, and quizzed us on the styles of different composers in order to cultivate a deeper understanding of the steps we were trying to refine.

Pestov wrote a book called Forty Lessons before leaving Russia. He taught in Stuttgart until his death. —Evan McKie


San Francisco Ballet principals Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan were married in June in Karapetyan’s home country of Armenia, and also in a civil ceremony in San Francisco in August. Karapetyan had given their performance of Romeo and Juliet in May a happy ending when he proposed to Zahorian onstage during the curtain call.

New York City Ballet principals Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette tied the knot in July in Chappaqua, NY.

New York City Ballet principal Maria Kowroski married Martin Harvey, a former Royal Ballet dancer who’s currently a featured dancer on tour with Come Fly Away, in August in the Cayman Islands.

Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae married RB first artist Elizabeth Harrod in August in London.



Zahorian and Karapetyan‘s onstage engagement. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.