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September 2007

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Juilliard Dance

Published: September 1, 2007
Category: profile

Margaret Tracey: School Administrator

By Rachel Straus

Margaret Tracey’s rise from New York City Ballet corps dancer to principal came in five swift years. In the ensuing 11, the Colorado-born redhead performed some 30 Balanchine ballets, earning a reputation as a technical artist of inspired effortlessness. In 2002, at age 34, she retired from the stage to devote more time to her toddler Avery. “The last season I performed with NYCB,” she says, “I was driving home down the West Side Highway. I was looking at the next phase of my life. I was thinking about teaching.”

Five quick years later, Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen called Tracey, who had taught the previous two summers at his school. Nissinen asked her to become the associate director of the Boston Ballet Center for Dance Education, a role that involves developing and maintaining pedagogical standards for 3,000 students. Tracey, now a mother of two, decided in April to take the job because “The school represents everything I believe dance can be, accessible to everyone: from their adaptive dance program for students with Down’s syndrome in coordination with Children’s Hospital Boston to their public school outreach. Kids in the city programs have gone on to be apprentices in the company.”

But prior to this prestigious appointment, Tracey went through some rough years following her farewell performance. “I was dealing with the grief of leaving the stage and the inevitable shift around my identity as a dancer,” she says. While raising her kids and teaching ballet classes part-time at Ballet Academy East under Darla Hoover’s guidance, she realized she wanted to continue working in the profession that had a given her so much. “In the professional ballet world there are standards. Discipline is not out of style. It’s one of the things I find beautiful about our art form.”

Tracey plans to bring “a nurturing loving discipline” to Boston Ballet. “Kids feel safe when their parameters are defined,” she says. “They feel motivated when they are given high expectations.” Tracey thrived under this type of discipline at the School of American Ballet with teachers Antonina Tumkovsky, Stanley Williams, and Suki Shorer. They prepared her to dance hard roles. Each came from a different pedagogical lineage, of which she is integrating into her teaching. Most importantly, each gave her personal consideration, which many years later made “me realize how much I was being cared for.”

Tracey knows her new role carries tremendous responsibility. “I’ll probably be even harder on myself as a teacher than I ever was as a dancer. This career will directly affect kids’ lives on a very different level than my dancing did.” Recently, when one of her Boston students received a ballet-company contract, Tracey saw a glimmer of her future. “Watching kids succeed is thrilling,” she says. “It makes it all worth it.”

Read the article at Dance Teacher

Copyright © 2007 Macfadden Performing Arts Media

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