Gwenn Barker
Gwenn BARKER January 31, 1929 ~ March 22, 2009 A teacher of enormous influence, generations of dancers from the Seattle area were trained by Gwenn Barker, a soloist with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo[1955-60]. She directed her own ballet school for fourteen years and performing company, Bellevue Civic Ballet for five years, and was then head of the Preparatory Dance Division of Cornish College of the Arts for 18 years. Her earliest training was in her native England, then later in Olympia, Washington where her family had settled after immigrating earlier in 1940 to Vashon Island during WWII. Some of her most influential ballet teachers included Marian and Illaria Ladré who were formerly with Diaghilev's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, who had opened a studio in Seattle; later Frederic Franklin; Vladimir Dokoudovksy; Nina Novak; and Lisan Kay. Some of her parts and favorite ballets were: Princess in "Giselle;" 'Big Swans'; the 'Red Lady' in "Gaîté Parisienne;" and the headmistress in "Graduation Ball." She was the first female to do this part and found it very rewarding. She never got tired of dancing in "Les Sylphides"- even without a special part. At his request, she managed Alan Howard's The Academy of Ballet at 2121 Market Street in San Francisco for a year before returning to performing with the Ballet Company at Radio City Music Hall, and after a year and a half, dancing in the musical "Camelot" for six months before marrying and moving to the suburb of Bellevue, Washington where she opened her ballet school in 1965. Interested in analyzing technique and presentation of dancers, her classes and combination exercises were logically structured, technically sound and produced students with very clean technique. She began teaching at age 16 by assisting her hometown teacher and recognized from that time she knew she would one day teach - "career or no career." Barker helped the younger children understand how to do certain steps and "I seemed able to do this very easily and enjoyed it." After retiring from full time teaching, Barker continued to coach and teach on a part time basis, regularly took the "ballet barre" portion of classes and even did some tap dance performing. Her passion and lifelong interest in ballet - and good technique - never waned, and she frequently traveled to attend performances, including each of the USA International Ballet Competitions in Jackson, Mississippi. She is one of the subjects in an upcoming University Press of Florida book about ballet technique and teaching. She is survived by her husband of forty-four years, Roy Harsh; her sister Ann Holland and brother Christopher Barker, both of Whidbey Island; her niece Dana Delman (Kirk); great-niece Anna; nephew James Skutt (Sarah); and great niece and nephew Hannah and Peter. The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, remembrances may be sent to the Gwenn Barker Endowed Scholarship at Cornish College of the Arts, Advancement Office, 1000 Lenora, Seattle, WA 98121. "A Tribute to Gwenn Barker" reception celebrating her life and career will be held at the Daughters of the American Revolution mansion, Sunday 3 May from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m., 800 E Roy St, Seattle, WA 98102.
Published by The Seattle Times from Apr. 12 to Apr. 13, 2009.
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2 Entries
Gwenn Barker was a fabulous ballet teacher and a great lady. She will be missed, and yet she leaves a part of herself with all who have been priveleged to study from her and/or who have knew her as a friend.
Mary Price Boday
April 20, 2009
What do you say about the kind of perfectionism Gwenn brought to life? Not just dance but everything she did. Loyal to her friends, she was there if needed and inspiring when confronting setbacks. In a world of pervasive mediocrity, she was an exceptional beacon of refinement and unflagging determination that set high standards for dance. She will be greatly missed because she was such a rara avis.
anita crocus
April 13, 2009
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