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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Grace Mann

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Grace Mann (1920-1998) was born in Oakland, California in 1920. She began dancing at the age of 4 and attended the University of California at Berkeley from 1938 through 1941, graduating with an undergraduate degree in Art. She studied with Willam and Lew Christensen at the San Francisco Ballet School in 1940 and 1941 and performed with the San Francisco Opera Ballet Company.

After graduating from college, Grace studied ballet in Los Angeles at the Theodore Kosloff Studio for five years. When Colonel de Basil of Ballets Russes observed Grace in class, he offered her a place with Ballets Russes in New York. Grace danced with the Ballets Russes in Europe during 1947-48, including performances at Covent Garden Theater in London, England.

During a layoff, Grace returned to California and began performing and teaching independently at the Woodminster Theater and at various benefits throughout the Bay Area. She eventually founded the Studio of Ballet Arts in Oakland and then the Valmann Ballet, an independent chamber ballet company based at the studio and managed by Spencer Barefoot. During the 1950's and 60's, Grace choreographed and performed several new works for Valmann Ballet. When the studio suffered fire damage, Grace founded a second teaching studio called Ballet Arts in Oakland where she continued to teach until she retired in 1992. 

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