SYLVIA HAMER HELPS PROMOTE PROGRAM FOR BALLET TEACHERS
(Editor’s note: This is another in a series about women in business and the professions.)
By Rosann Spratt
Dance Teacher Sylvia Hamer has been in Detroit this week attending a meeting of the Checchetti Council, a national ballet teachers’ organization which she helped found.
The council, named for the noted Italian ballet teacher who set up the Imperial School of Ballet in Russia, sets the standards for teachers of ballet and examines and licenses them.
Mrs. Hamer, a past president of the Checchetti Council and of the Dance Masters of America, has taught in practically every major city in the U.S.
Licensed By Imperial Society
She goes to Chicago once a month to coach a group of teachers, and she formerly conducted a monthly class in Chicago for professional dancers. She has been called upon to coach teachers and dancers in all parts of the country.
Licensed by the Imperial Society of London, Mrs. Hamer is one of about six ballet teachers in the U.S. who hold this honor. She is studying now for an advanced certificate which would make her a fellow of the society.
The popular teacher was born and raised in a small town near Port Huron called Peck. She studied music and dancing in that area throughout her early years. She later studied with teachers at Bay City, where she lived following her first marriage, and in Detroit.
When her two children were still young she moved to New York City where she danced and studied with the Albertina Rash Ballet Co. While in New York she met and married Ellsworth Hamer, who is now assistant manager of the Butterfield Theaters in Ann Arbor.
Enjoys Teaching Beginners
Mrs. Hamer opened a dance studio shortly after the couple moved here 27 years ago. She had just gotten her classes nicely under way when she was involved in an automobile accident and was laid up for two years before she could resume teaching.
Mrs. Hamer says her day is always brightened by her “baby class,” which is made up of tiny beginners as young as 3. Although most of her beginners are in the elementary-school age group, one of her best dancers didn’t start lessons until she was 15.
A University high jumper said he broke his own record following ballet training at the Hamer studio.
Mrs. Hamer says that teachers of ballet should have a knowledge of anatomy. Teaching ballet is a highly technical and specialized business, she says, and an unprepared teacher may be headed for trouble.
Visited Covent Garden
Mrs. Hamer went to England in the summer of 1951 where she studied with the Checchetti Society, and then on to France where she trained further with Madame North.
While in London she sat in a box seat across from royalty at a performance of the Sadler Wells Ballet Co. in Covent Gardens. She also was granted the privilege of going backstage after the performance.
It hardly seems possible that the attractive dance teacher, who has the figure of a 20-year-old girl, is the grandmother of five.
Her daughter, who was a professional dancer before her marriage, lives with her family in Detroit. Mrs. Hamer’s son, Jay King, who has always limited his dancing to the ballroom, was a quarterback on the Alma College football team. He is now employed at the U-M.
Mrs. Hamer says she favors the classic, romantic ballets, and among her favorite dancers are Margot Fonteyn and Maria Tallchief.
Founded Civic Ballet
In addition to ballet, she teaches tap, acrobatic and Spanish dancing, but not modern dance.
She founded the Ann Arbor Civic Ballet and acts as artistic director for the organization.
Mrs. Hamer has studied stage design, lighting and costuming and designs all the costumes for her annual recitals at Ann Arbor High School, which are co-sponsored by the Slauson Parent-Teacher Organization.
An average of 350 to 400 attend classes each year at the Sylvia Studio of the Dance, which is located at 525 E. Liberty St. Mrs. Hamer teaches all the classes herself and knows every student by name.
IMAGE TEXT: THE PERSONAL TOUCH: Sylvia Hamer, who knows every one of her 350-some dance students by name, gives a little personal attention to a pretty young dancer, Eliza Christia.