The Art of Living: Life Lessons from an 88-Year-Old Ballet Teacher

The Art of Living: Life Lessons from an 88-Year-Old Ballet Teacher

Maxwell Ryan
Feb 12, 2017

I've always believed that homes need good design to support a good life, but the greatest design of all is the design of a life itself. Visiting my aunt Sheila last year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was stunned watching her teach for the first time and shocked to realize that in my whole life of knowing her, I'd never really known this side of her as Ms. Rozann, master ballet teacher. I left from my visit with an indelible image of her, at 88, channeling her entire experience right into her students with a warmth, love and fierceness that was unparalleled in all my years of watching teachers. She was tough!

I visited her two more times and during the year my other aunt, her partner, passed away of a sudden undetected cancer. They were together over 50 years, founding the Rozann-Zimmerman Ballet Center in Los Angeles, which they ran for 35 years, and then later moved to New Mexico. Through this sad time, Sheila never stopped teaching.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

Every weekday Sheila gets herself ready after lunch, leaves her apartment in an independent living community, and takes the community car service to NDI New Mexico Dance Barns, where she teaches until 7pm. When I met with her afterwards and took her to dinner, she was more alive than me, filled with the energy of working intensely with her students. An optimistic person by nature, she positively glows even more whenever she talks about her students.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

Life is short. I decided I had to capture her on film.

My secret agenda? Not just to share her unique and inspiring skills as a person and teacher, but also to show her off and hopefully draw her to New York City (where I live) as a guest teacher for a few months. I firmly believe that right now she is at the height of her powers and there are students coming to New York from all over the world who would be blown away by what she could teach them - and who would blow her away too. She just loves to teach.

To put this short film together, I not only asked Sheila's permission, but I also asked my cousin, her nephew, to shoot and direct it. It is therefore with great pleasure that I present to you the first chapter in our Art of Living series masterfully filmed by Quinn Wharton.



Sheila Rozann - Ballet Faculty

Sheila Rozann's early ballet training was with Bronislava Nijinska, a well-known choreographer from the Diaghileff /Ballet Russe era, and sister of the great dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky.

Ms. Rozann is the founder of the Rozann-Zimmerman Ballet Center (RZBC), which she directed for 35 years in Los Angeles, California. During that time many of her students were accepted into ballet companies across the country and in Europe. Among them were Heather Watts, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet (NYCB), Ariana Lallone, currently principal dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), Zippora Karz, former soloist with NYCB, Beverly Tucker and Romy Karz, former corps members of NYCB, Edward Farley and Francine Kessler former soloists with Ballet West, and Lisa Cuizon, former corps member with Cleveland Ballet.

After visiting Ms. Rozann's school in Los Angeles, George Balanchine was so impressed that he personally invited her to his Ford Foundation-sponsored teaching seminars held in New York City at his School of American Ballet (SAB). This started a long-standing association between Ms. Rozann and SAB and resulted in dozens of her students being selected for SAB's summer course and year-round program. Sheila Rozann is a highly inspiring teacher with a superb eye for alignment, clarity of movement and expressiveness without affectation. She has the unusual ability to pull from her students a degree of energy they had never realized was possible. Ms. Rozann was on the faculty of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet for the past 13 years. She has been on the teaching staff of the School of Ballet Chicago's Summer Course and Advanced Intensive program since the year 2000. She also teaches master classes in Los Angeles, California and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Via Ballet Chicago

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