Wednesday Mar 11 2009
Ballerina Von Thaden teaches the next generation
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Wrtier
GreenTree Ballet to perform 'Magic Toy Shop' on March 21
How does a British dancer trained by the Royal Ballet School wind up teaching dance in Loomis? Pauline Von Thaden gives her husband, Bill, full credit for both her retirement from dancing, and later, for encouraging her to open her own dance school, GreenTree Studio. Pauline was a young woman touring England with a dance company when a friend introduced her to Bill, who was an American serviceman. Thirteen days later, they were engaged. After marrying in 1960, Von Thaden hung up her ballet slippers to become the wife of an Air Force navigator. “I had no regrets on leaving dance,” she said. In 1972, Bill was stationed at McClellan Air Force base and the couple, along with their three children, moved to GreenTree Farm, a former peach orchard in Loomis. The 10-acre property they bought still had the original Pacific Fruit Exchange packing shed on it. Pauline Von Thaden returned to her dance roots a few years later when she started taking dance classes again and also taught ballet to 3- and 4-year-olds. She said she had begun taking dance lessons at age 3 during World War II. Her family helped out by making costumes and her father played the piano for the school after he returned from the war. “I remember someone asking me when I was young, ‘Do you like to dance?’ It was so much a part of my life that it was like asking me if I liked to breathe,” she said. According to Von Thaden, she began teaching dance classes locally in the basement of the Loomis Congregational Church that was housed in what is now the Koinonia Family Services headquarters in downtown Loomis. Meanwhile, Bill was renovating their fruit shed to include a 2,000-square- foot dance studio where Pauline was able to open her own dance school. She said Bill is still involved in “all aspects of the school except teaching.” “I really enjoy teaching. I like watching the children grow and develop. It’s like watching my own children grow,” she said. The Von Thaden children all took lessons from their mother, and her son Mark married Nancy, one of the students. Now, Von Thaden teaches five of her grandchildren. Aside from the dancing, Von Thaden said she tries to instill in her students that “appearance counts, be on time, behave in class, and be respectful to each other and to the instructor.” GreenTree students take classes in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, swing and even hip hop. The studio is also the home of GreenTree Children’s Ballet Company. The company has 16 members who auditioned for their spots. Every year, they present a ballet for the community that Von Thaden arranges and choreographs. The company will perform “The Magic Toy Shop” at 7 p.m., on Saturday, March 21, at the Del Oro Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $7 and are available online at weredancing.com/gtcbc or by calling 652-0830.