Richmond Times-Dispatch
Email Facebook Twitter YouTube Mobile RSS

Dance teacher 'Miss Mease' dies at 90

»  Comments | Post a Comment

Marion Fay Mease Childrey danced for 69 years before she closed her Marion Mease School of Dance in Richmond in 1993. And then she taught several years more.

"She was dancing until she was 80," said her daughter, Shannon Kruep of Bumpass.

"She couldn't quite face a total retirement. Her life without dancing — she couldn't see that."

Graceful and agile at 72, when she formally retired, she could still do the splits — students remembered the privilege of shaking her hand when they achieved that milestone.

"Miss Mease," as her students knew her, will be honored at a graveside service today, Thursday, at 1 p.m. at Signal Hill Memorial Park, 12360 Hanover Courthouse Road in Hanover County.

The 90-year-old Utah native died Sunday in a Goochland County nursing home.

She began dance lessons when she was 3 years old with Richmond dance maven Elinor Fry. In a 1993 Richmond Times-Dispatch interview, Miss Mease confessed, "I've danced all my life, and I'm ignorant of everything in the world but dancing."

But many of those who took classical ballet, pointe, classical jazz, musical comedy, tap and acrobatics from Miss Mease over the years say she taught much more than dance.

"She just seemed to value everyone there," said Mary Frances Hobbs, a retired Richmond chemistry teacher who studied under her.

"There was a magic about her. We all adored her and would do anything she told us. She would correct us if we didn't do it right, but it was more of a suggestion, and we would work so hard to get it right because she was so wonderful."

When Miss Mease's students, which included a surprising number of boys and men, arrived at the studio — a pink-trimmed pair of converted houses at 3453 W. Cary St. in Carytown — they felt special.

"You came as if you really were a ballerina," Hobbs said. "Which made it really special for little girls. We dressed in what people who were really ballerinas did. Even the little kids learned the proper (French) terms for ballet. That built on the image that we really were ballerinas."

At 16, Miss Mease began teaching during her high school years at Fry's studio after school. She spent summers honing teaching skills in New York venues such as the School of the American Ballet.

She opened her own studio in 1950 and went into semi-retirement in 1986, teaching three days a week while her daughter and assistants taught the other classes. She sold the studio in 1993 but continued to teach private lessons in a borrowed North Side studio for two years and did other private lessons, her daughter said.

Every other year, her dance school put on a recital at The Mosque, now the Landmark Theater. Toward the end of her career, she was putting 700 to 800 dancers — ages 3 to older than 50, and sometimes multiple generations in families — onstage in extravaganzas that became so popular that parents and friends of students would camp out at the box office to get tickets. The proceeds went to charity.

"Nobody yelled at anybody. Everything was so calm. Marion kept everything organized," Hobbs said.

Miss Mease "worked, lived and breathed dance," her daughter said. "She considered herself one of the luckiest people to be able to do that.

"To so many, she passed on a lifelong love of dance and music. I don't ever remember a time in my home when we didn't have music. She cherished letters from her former students, who sometimes many years later wrote her about how much dancing in her studio meant to them."

Miss Mease was the widow of Jackson Frayser Childrey, who died in 1992. "He enabled her to live her passion," her daughter said. "He learned to build props and scenery, did the cooking and cleaning, learned to cut and tape music, did the book work. She could not have done it without him."

After finally retiring, Miss Mease read more — often to a blind friend. She decided she wanted to learn to cook — "we survived it," her daughter said.

And she "was thrilled to have a grandchild." Her grandson is her only other immediate survivor.

Terms and Conditions

Share This:

Share - Yahoo! Share - Facebook Facebook Share - More More




Reader Comments

*Facebook Account Required to Comment. If you are not already logged into Facebook, please click the comment button to do so.

Deal of the Day



Daily Email Newsletter

daily update 2

Get the morning's top headlines delivered directly to your inbox every morning. Sign up now!


Purchase RTD Photos

Baseball Hall of Famers in Richmond in the 1950s.
Baseball Hall of Famers in Richmond in the 1950s.
Close Title

Events & Things To Do


Media General - Coupons and Deals Promo Codes
KewlBoxBoxerJam: Games & Puzzles
Games, Puzzles & Trivia
Blockdot: Advergaming and Branded Media
Advergaming and Branded Media
Web Links: Advertise With Us | Contact Us | Email Alerts | Times-Dispatch Shop | RSS Feeds | Mobile Alerts | Search | Find Richmond Jobs
Newspaper Links: Subscribe to the Newspaper | TD-Digital | Kindle Edition | Place a Classified | Submit News Tips | Contact Us | Photo Reprints
Main Media Partners: | Goochland Gazette | Mechanicsville Local | Midlothian Exchange | Virginia Newspapers | Powhatan Today | PolitiFact Virginia

Calais - Powered by Thomson ReutersCalais - Powered by Thomson Reuters