Marcia Dale Weary, a dance teacher whose school in rural Pennsylvania trained a number of prominent ballet dancers and helped populate the ranks of many major companies, died Monday in Camp Hill, Pa., just outside Harrisburg. She was 82.
The cause was heart failure, said Nicholas Ade, the school’s chief executive.
Ms. Weary’s school, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, is located about a half-hour west of Harrisburg, in Carlisle. There, since the 1950s, she inculcated the fundamentals of ballet technique, without affectations or shortcuts, in thousands of students from around the country.
“Her teaching was very clear, very succinct,” Ade said. “She broke things down. She would work on a tendu,” a sliding of the foot away from the body, “until it was done perfectly. Her genius is that she knew when to move on and when to slow down.”
Her reputation for deliberate, exacting training was the reason so many gifted students came to Carlisle. Graduates are on the rosters of nearly every important American company, including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Miami City Ballet.
Ms. Weary’s former pupils have included Geoffrey Cirio, a principal dancer at English National Ballet, and Ashley Bouder, a principal at New York City Ballet. Many have gone on to become teachers, choreographers and company directors.
Ade said in a phone interview that Ms. Weary was particularly proud when she heard just days before her death that Jonathan Stafford, whom she trained in the 1990s, had recently been selected to become artistic director of New York City Ballet. (She also trained his sister, Abi Stafford, a principal at the company.)
“She made us feel lucky to be able to study ballet, to be pursuing a higher art and be surrounded by classical music,” Stafford said by e-mail. “When you’re dancing, it’s not just about steps — it’s about living and breathing the music and letting your soul and your personality come out.”
Petite and soft-spoken, with a singsongy voice, Ms. Weary nevertheless had an intensity about her. She would often get down on the floor and mold her dancers’ feet into the perfect position.
“She used to walk into the studio, this small woman wearing a lavender sweater, with that brisk little walk and her pearl earrings,” said Darla Hoover, who studied with Ms. Weary in the 1970s and went on to dance at New York City Ballet. She would watch the dancers and call out, “Don’t get tired!” Hoover became a teacher at Ms. Weary’s school and is now associate artistic director.
The care taken to instill correct and well-articulated movement was the result, in part, of Ms. Weary’s own realization that she had received inferior training early on. Ms. Weary began her ballet studies late, at 14, at local schools in Carlisle, where she grew up.
“She always thought she’d like to dance,” her sister Sandra Lee Weary said in a telephone interview. “But it wasn’t until high school that she got the chance.” Their parents were avid social dancers, she said, and Marcia and her two sisters loved to watch them.
When she traveled to New York in her teens to audition for ballet companies, Ade said she told him, “she was laughed at” because of her bad form. In an attempt to catch up, she attended the School of Ballet Repertory in New York in the summer, under the instruction of Thalia Mara and her husband at the time, Arthur Mahoney, two leading pedagogues.
The rest of the year, Ms. Weary sold classified ads at the local newspaper, The Sentinel, to pay for her ballet classes.
She found her true calling in teaching. Carlisle, where she opened her first school in 1955 at the age of 19, is surrounded by farmland. She converted a sheep barn into a school, then called the Marcia Dale School of Dance. It consisted of a single studio, large enough for no more than a dozen students.
Soon two more studios were added. In 1974, the school was renamed Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet; it eventually expanded to three buildings in various locations in and around Carlisle, with a total of 15 studios and a large faculty. Around 300 students aged 4 to 19 attend during the regular school year, with many moving with their families to the area; 600 take part in the academy’s summer programs.
Because of her particular admiration for George Balanchine, Ms. Weary’s students often performed his works, including “Serenade,” “Divertimento No. 15,” and “Emeralds,” at their yearly performances.
The school performs Balanchine’s “Nutcracker” every year at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg and the Hershey Theater in Hershey, Pa. It is the only school given permission by the Balanchine Trust to do so.
Ms. Weary often helped her students financially as well. In a recent Instagram post, Bouder of New York City Ballet recalled that Ms. Weary would buy pointe shoes for her when her family could not afford them, and would give her free private lessons.
Marcia Dale Weary was born in Carlisle on March 31, 1936, the middle daughter of Dale Edwin Weary, a surveyor and bookkeeper, and Melva Grace (Farrow) Weary, a homemaker. She attended elementary schools in Pennsylvania and Alabama, where, during World War II, her father had a job as a warehouse supervisor near Mobile. It was there that Ms. Weary was exposed to ballet, at the recital of a family friend.
In addition to Sandra Weary, her older sister, Weary is survived by her younger sister, Rosemary Lyn Weary.
Ms. Weary continued to teach daily until late last year, specializing in her younger students.
“Every child should take ballet,” she once told an interviewer. “Not to become a ballet dancer, but to be exposed to classical music. Being exposed to classical music gives them beautiful thoughts and much more vivid imaginations.”