Cynthia Harvey, a former principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and current artistic director of the company’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, graced the podium in the Chiang-Elghanayan Center for Innovation and Collaboration on January 28. She joined the Blair community to speak “On Dance” at the Society of Skeptics.
In her presentation, Ms. Harvey addressed how perfectionism as a dancer can create a dichotomy. “In an art form where one strives for perfection, one does not improve from chasing that perfection,” she said. “I hope that this Skeptics helps students find that learning and improving from failure is far more beneficial than striving for something unattainable.”
Ms. Harvey’s life in dance began with her training in her native California at age 8. She later attended the American Ballet Theatre School in New York City and joined the company in 1974, advancing through the ranks to become a soloist in 1978 and a principal dancer in 1982. Her style marked her as one of ABT’s most versatile and valued artists.
As a professional ballerina, Ms. Harvey performed all the leading ballerina roles in the classical canon and created the role of Gamzatti in Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadère, the Western world premiere of the complete ballet. At the invitation of Sir Anthony Dowell in 1986, she was the first American dancer to join The Royal Ballet as a principal dancer. She rejoined the ABT in 1988 and continued to perform as a guest artist with renowned ballet companies worldwide, including Baryshnikov and Company and Nureyev and Friends, before retiring from the stage in 1996.
Ms. Harvey’s post-performance work as a sought-after teacher, coach, ballet mistress and jurist for dance competitions has taken her around the globe, and she has staged ballets internationally, as well. In 2016, she was appointed artistic director of ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Established in 2004, the school aims to provide the highest quality ballet training, consistent with the stylistic requirements of ABT, and to provide dancers with a rich knowledge of classical technique and the ability to adapt to all styles and techniques of dance.
A mentor to and advocate for dancers, Ms. Harvey served on a committee of major ballet directors and ballet school directors that discussed issues related to improving life for ballet companies and schools. She is a member of the International Council of Dance and founder of the En Avant Foundation, a nonprofit for mentoring and coaching ballet for prodigious young dancers.
To watch her Skeptics presentation, please click below:
The History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.