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Memorium, 1-6: The Teacher, the Dancer
Farewell to Svetlana Afanasieva & Alan Eto
By Aimee Tsao
& Fiona Marcotty
Copyright 2004 Aimee Tsao & Fiona Marcotty
SAN FRANCISCO -- Svetlana
Afanasieva, one of the Bay Area's most prominent ballet teachers,
died on December 30, 2003 at the age of 63, of an apparent heart
attack while on vacation with her family in the Lake Tahoe area.
Afanasieva coaches a City Ballet School student in "The Nutcracker."
Photo courtesy Aimee Tsao.
Born in Moscow on August
12, 1940, Ms. Afanasieva survived the hardships of World War II to
go on to study at the famed Bolshoi Academy of Ballet. After graduating,
she joined the renowned Moiseyev Dance Company. She performed with
that troupe for five years, touring internationally. She also met
Mikhail Alexandrov, another dancer in the company, whom she married,
and together they had a daughter, Galina Alexandrova.
Missing classical ballet,
she left the Moiseyev and joined the Stanislavsky
Ballet as a principal dancer. For fifteen years Ms. Afanasieva
danced the important leading classical roles. When she retired from
the stage, she was accepted into the teacher training program at
her alma mater, the Bolshoi Academy of Ballet. She joined the teaching
staff of that prestigious institution on completion of the five-year
course. She also was a guest teacher for many companies in Europe,
particularly in the Eastern Bloc.
Galina, her daughter,
after graduating from the Bolshoi Academy of Ballet danced with
the Bolshoi Ballet for seven years. While on tour in San Francisco
Galina met her future husband, Kenneth Patsel, who was working at
the War Memorial Opera House. After emigrating here and getting
married, she joined the San Francisco Ballet. Eventually, her parents,
Ms. Afanasieva and Mr. Alexandrov, moved to be closer to her.
Soon Ms. Afanasieva
was teaching again. First giving company class for Smuin Ballets
and working with young students at the Marin Ballet School, under
director Mikko Nissinen (now director of Boston Ballet). She began
teaching her own independent class in the mornings and taught for
the San Francisco Dance Center and gave company classes to Alonzo
King's Lines Ballet.
Many principal dancers
and soloists from San Francisco Ballet came to Ms. Afanasieva's
class, as well as modern dancers from Robert Moses' Kin, Kunst-Stoff
and ODC/SF. Her immense body of technical expertise and the depth
of her artistic understanding drew loyal students and she was greatly
loved. Though she spoke limited English, without words she immediately
communicated her love for dance, her joy in teaching, her creativity
in composing combinations, and her deep understanding that the design
of the class itself could teach you many technical details without
verbal explanations. She possessed a diamond sharp intelligence,
glittering in its many facets, and an inner strength that keep her
going in spite of her emotional vulnerability in the face of a difficult
Last summer, Galina
took over City Ballet School from Damara Bennett, who moved to Portland
to assume the position of school director of the Oregon Ballet Theatre,
under Christopher Stowell's artistic leadership. Ms. Afanasieva
began giving classes to aspiring young dancers and helped with City
Ballet School's production of "The Nutcracker." At the end of October,
she also moved her morning class from the San Francisco Dance Center
to the City Ballet School's new studios.
Svetlana's passing leaves
a deep chasm in the landscape of the Bay Area dance community. She
taught one of the few Vaganova style classes that was accessible
to everyone, not limited to those enrolled in professional training
A Russian Orthodox service
was held Monday morning at the chapel of the Serbian Cemetery in
Colma, where Svetlana was buried with her mother, Pelageia Afanasieva,
and her husband, Mikhail Alexandrov, who both died in early 2002.
She is survived by her daughter Galina Alexandrova, son-in-law Kenneth
Patsel, and three grandchildren, Sasha, Katia and Natassia Patsel.
Donations in Svetlana
Afanasieva's honor can be made to City Youth Ballet, c/o City Ballet
School, 32 Otis Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.
NEW YORK -- Alan Eto was one of those New York dancers who was in
it for keeps, no matter how crushing the disappointments or how
few the acknowledgements. A true paladin, he danced because he believed
in art's power to ask questions, to tear down facades, to make us
all think, feel, connect, and love harder than we ever could without
it. From his days as a Juilliard student, to his years performing
with Repertory Dance Theater, Zvi Gotheiner, Sally Silvers, Stanley
Love Performance Group, Debbie Stamos, in Kate Valentine's Les Boys,
and with Fiona Marcotty/beat upon beat, Alan inhabited the dance
landscape with a consummate articulated grace, tempered by a heart
of wildness, and a fierce sense of morality. His performance in
"Proud Mary," a solo created for him by Stanley Love, was unforgettable
for many viewers in its audacity, sexuality, and empathy.
Alan entered Beth Israel
Hospital on November 24, and spent five weeks in critical condition
battling multiple organ failure and AIDS-related complications.
He was slated to perform in my concert in the first week of December.
The memory of the amazing spiritual quality he always had of seeing
far into the distance, focusing on the eternal as he danced, will
stay with me forever.
Alan Eto died on New
Year's Eve at the age of 38. He is survived by his father, David
Eto, and his brother, Gordon Tad Eto. His legacy includes the memory
of his devotion to his spiritual master, Sri Gary Olsen, and his
overwhelming generosity to his many, many friends. There will be
a memorial event on Saturday, January 24 at Location One Gallery.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Fiona Marcotty
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