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For Stanley Holden, School's Out

June 15, 1997|Lewis Segal

For more than 25 years, Stanley Holden's ballet school in the Rancho Park area served the local dance community and also attracted many great stars who lived here or passed through town.

Such dancers as Juliet Prowse (Holden's first celebrity), Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova took classes at the Holden Dance Center, as did Ron Reagan, the president's son, who met his future wife on the premises.

Gone are the days: At the end of May, when Holden's lease on the studio ended, he said goodbye to the responsibilities of running a dance business with as many as 40 staffers and 300 students a day.

But Holden didn't say goodbye to dance. Far from it: After a break needed to sort through, move and store the memorabilia of a quarter-century, the former Royal Ballet principal dancer is back to teaching ballet--completely on his own, this time, in Culver City. And he says the move across town--with a new workload of two classes a day, four days a week, for 25 to 30 students--represents "a step forward for me in a good direction."

Holden explains that heart surgery in 1980 and 1996, plus the prospect of turning 70 early next year, led him to avoid another long-term lease in favor of a more flexible work schedule that leaves plenty of room for guest teaching. Most recently, he worked with the dancers in the Matthew Bourne "Swan Lake" at the Ahmanson Theatre and he plans to accept opportunities out of state in the near future. But "only a few days at a time," he insists.

Up to a week before the old lease ended, Holden wasn't exactly sure where he'd end up. But urbanist Frederick Smith of Samitaur Constructs learned of his availability and decided to involve him in plans to integrate the arts in pending development projects.

"Our long-range plans are to build theaters in Culver City," Smith says, "and to establish a dance company as well--but not overnight. I'm fortunate to have someone like Stanley that all this can coalesce around."

Two smaller dance studios exist now, with a 4,000- to 5,000-foot one being planned.

"It has a great feel, this place," Holden says of his new home, noting that his biggest problem is understanding the meaning of the sign on the front door, "Conjunctive Points--Dance."

And he insists he still gets "more gratification from teaching than I ever did as a performer, and I was very successful as a performer."

Plans for Holden's former studio space remain unannounced.

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