The Loss of a Legend: Remembering Marcia Dale Weary
“At every possible opportunity, I hope to instill in children a love for the arts and for classical music,” said Marcia Dale Weary, beloved teacher and founder of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. “Along with that, I hope to help them develop self-discipline, generosity and the ability to focus.”
Weary passed away at the age of 82 on Monday, March 4, 2019.
Since opening her first school in 1955, Weary taught generations of students, training them for professional careers, and changing their lives through dance. In 1974, the Marcia Dale School of Dance became the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, a nonprofit school and performing company, and the red barn behind her house in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was established as an iconic ballet studio and center for dance education.
Many of her students, affectionately known as “barn babies,” remember the way she created a safe and beautiful haven—a home away from home—that inspired both dreams and hard work.
Weary had a magical way of commanding a student’s attention. As one of CPYB’s guest teachers, I remember sitting in the corner of the barn’s Studio A, watching her teach a beginner level. Not one of those young dancers was fidgeting, talking or daydreaming. They were all completely engaged and eager to please, under her spell.
She was able to communicate and connect with students in a way that consistently brought out their best.
While I did not have the privilege of training with Weary, my husband and his sister grew up dancing in the barn and often speak of the impact she had on their careers and lives. My mother-in-law was one of Weary’s first students and taught by her side for more than 30 years. Many of my professional colleagues studied with Weary, and each of them had a technical fearlessness, refined artistry, confidence and pristine attention to detail—trademark qualities of Weary’s training.
Generations of students that studied with her are now teaching, dancing in major companies or directing them. So many more have excelled in other areas, due to the skills they learned under her watchful and caring eye.
Weary had high expectations for all her students. They learned discipline, focus and respect for the art form. They learned musicality and the importance of creative expression, as she often talked about showing your soul through movement.
She encouraged dancers to maintain a certain level of professionalism both inside and outside the studio. She was strict but had a sense of humor. She was a master who always kept learning and passed that knowledge to her students.
The first time I taught at CPYB’s summer program almost 15 years ago, Weary watched the last few minutes of my class. Students were muddling through a series of big jumps but seemed to be enjoying the challenge. “They need to go back to the barre,” Weary told me. “Break it down for them. Don’t just make it fun.” Her words resonated.
The practice of “breaking it down” was key to Weary’s teaching philosophy. She could dissect and explain each step in a way that everyone could understand, and she never underestimated children. The young dancers she trained have a strength and maturity beyond their years and could often perform the repertoire typical of a major professional company.
She believed that all students could become dancers if they worked hard enough and had the passion. “There is a place for them in the ballet world if they really want it,” she once said. Weary made dreams come true. She touched the lives of countless people and will remain in our hearts as future generations of dancers grow and blossom through her legacy.
Thank you, Marcia. We are grateful and enriched beyond words.