Generations of students at the School of American Ballet, where I first encountered Suzy, have been influenced not only by her instruction, but by her. Suzy's manner, her way of imparting the technical information inseparable from the "Balanchinian" essence, sensibility and attitude, quite simply determined the course of my own life and career. She often talked in class about Balanchine the man: what he wanted in technique and style, and why. Her anecdotes and analogies are legendary, vivid, and utterly effective in getting some aspect of technique to suddenly make perfect sense. I really do think she was bringing Balanchine right into the studio with us, as many of her stories and phrasings were ones that she heard from him during the sixteen years she danced in New York City Ballet.
Suzy was the one who got me to understand the why and how of dancing, with practicality, perspective and lightness, in the way that meant and felt the most inevitable to me. She re-ignited my pilot light when it was threatening to go out, and kept it fueled as the years passed. (You can read more about those pivotal moments in Chapters 15 and 16 of Being a Ballerina: The Power and Perfection of a Dancing Life.)
Very unfortunately, SAB students won't have Suzy's inspiration, humor, and wisdom anymore. Her influence won't fade away, though. I have confidence that what she gave me and countless others will live on in us and in those that we now teach. I for one carry her on my shoulder every day I teach a ballet class and will do my best not to let her down.
Listen to this wonderful, insightful and downright fun conversation she had with Lauryn Johnson, the host of Immortal Icons of Dance. I hope you'll enjoy learning about this woman whose devotion to this art form and the people involved in it should alone earn her a place in the hall of fame.
I'm also linking you to an article I wrote for Dance Teacher magazine in 2020 in which I interviewed Suzy about the essential elements to understand about Balanchine's teachings. Her explanations were, and are, passionate and true.