Ballet instructor brings talents to OU School of Dance
OU’s new ballet instructor is proud to be working for what she calls the “best dance program in the country.”
Clara Cravey, who has had her name on posters in front of the Theatre Champs-Elysees in Paris and the Volksoper Theatre in Vienna, has made a home in Norman to contribute her instructing talents to the OU School of Dance.
On Tuesday afternoon, Cravey was found in a studio at the Donald W. Reynolds Performing Arts Center surrounded by girls attending the SummerWind Youth Ballet Camp, a dance camp that draws dancers from across the country. Cravey critiqued the young dancers in everything from arm movements to head positions.
Cravey’s office walls are decorated with framed posters showcasing performances at famous theaters, and each poster has her name in bold letters.
Cravey humbly waved them off as “just some posters I’ve collected throughout the years.”
Behind her desk is a picture of herself as a teenage ballerina. Cravey started her professional dance career at the age of 16. She spent the next 20 years traveling with her dance companies to perform on six continents, at venues new and old.
“We danced in a beautiful place called Baalbeck, in Lebanon, in the Temple of Bacchus. They had a summer festival there,” Cravey said. “It was full of Pheonecian ruins. There were beautiful pillars and it was all lit up.”
Cravey’s dance career ended in her mid-30s, when knee injuries prevented her from performing.
“It’s a hard art,” Cravey said “You’re using your whole body. You’re putting great demands on your knees, your ankles, your back, neck. Everything is totally involved,”
Cravey said her injuries did not prevent her from contributing to the ballet. She transitioned quickly from performing to instructing.
“I can still teach and I can still move around so that’s all that was important. As long as I can teach,” Cravey said.
Cravey came to OU from the Houston Ballet Company after being approached by her friend and the head of the OU School of Dance, Mary Margaret Holt, who had worked with Cravey in Houston.
“The dance world is a small world, in a nice way, because you get to meet colleagues like Clara,” Holt said.
The OU position was not a tough sell for Cravey.
“We at the Houston Ballet have always said [OU] was the best dance program in the country, and I still believe that,” Cravey said. “I’ve been to the other ones.”
Cravey describes herself as the new kid and said she feels honored to be coming in at the top of the program. She said she is excited for the coming school year, when the school of dance will continue its collaborations with the choral and music departments.
“We’re doing ‘The Nutcracker’ in the first part of December, so we’ll be working on that right away,” Cravey said.
Though Cravey’s work does not take her to Paris, Istanbul or London anymore, she said she still gets to travel during the summer to dance schools as an instructor.
Before returning to Norman for the OU dance camp this week, Cravey was in Indiana teaching at the Masterworks Arts Festival. She said has plans to travel to Atlanta, Houston, Florida and Fort Worth, Texas, before returning to Norman for the fall semester.
“I’ve been around, but it’s nice to be in one spot,” Cravey said.