• Peninsula Dancer

    by the Consonant Cowboy

    It is hard to find anyone on the Monterey Peninsula who has touched more lives than Pacific Grove resident Dorothy Dean Stevens, who directed the Dorothy Dean School of Dance for 20 years. Through her doors passed many of the area’s finest instructors, dancers and their families. Notables include local publicist David Armanasco, Alaine Hurlbut, Michael Smuin (founder of the Smuin Ballet in San Francisco) Roberta Tobata and Leon Panetta.
    Dorothy has chronicled her life and the many connections she’s made in her new book, “Dancing Through Life: On the Monterey Peninsula and Beyond.” Its 200 pages are loaded with great stories and photos that show the vibrancy of children, the dedication of teachers and the devotion of parents. There are images of Dorothy with Georgia Von Richter, Michael Somes and Philip Chatfield, plus rare photos of Evelyn Woodruff and Margot Fonteyn.
    The book is also a treasure trove of history rich in detail. It begins with an account-handed down by Dorothy’s great-great aunt-of her great-great grandfather James McDonald’s decision to join the largest wagon train to ever attempt the Oregon Trail. He died on that journey; his wife, Jane Colwell McDonald, went on with her seven children. In that difficult crossing, some of the pioneers went off on their own to join the Gold Rush, thinking a southern route would be safer and easier. That was the Donner Party. The McDonalds followed the wagonmaster. They arrived in Sublimity, Oregon and the family blossomed from there.
    “My grandfather Dean was a builder here on the Peninsula,” says Dorothy. “He built the Walter Colton School, and my dad built the Robert Down School.” She speaks of her husband: “David Stevens was a remarkable man who graduated from college at MPC when he was 67. He had been pulled out of school in the tenth grade to go to work because his dad wasn’t supporting the family.”
    Dorothy’s studies took her to San Francisco, Paris and London. She started a ballet school adjacent to Chautagua Hall in Pacific Grove, and then operated the Dorothy Dean School of Dance in Monterey, Carmel and Fort Ord. Her dancers performed many times in Pacific Grove at the high school (now the middle school) on Forest Avenue, and in the Feast of Lanterns.
    “I directed three ballet tours to Europe in 1953, ‘56 and ‘58. These tours were arranged for teachers and advanced students. Each year we had two weeks studying in Paris, then on to London for 2 weeks of classes with The Royal Ballet School.” Dorothy also ran numerous fundraisers, fashion shows and more.
    After closing the dance school, Dorothy merchandised the golf shop at Quail Lodge before opening her own place, DD Designs. “We did trophies, and I knew everybody in the golfing business.” (She points to a photo of herself with Arnold Palmer.) In retirement, Dorothy has traveled to many places including France, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece and Hawaii.
    The public is invited to meet Dorothy Dean Stevens at her book signing at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 14. She will be at the Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library at 155 Van Buren Street in Monterey. “I knew Mayo very well,” says Dorothy, who volunteered many hours at the library. For more information, call the library and ask for Faye Messinger or Frances Spradlin at (831) 372-1838.
    When asked if she’s always enjoyed writing, Dorothy replies, “No! It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.”

    Here is a quote from Dorothy’s book:
    They moved through life joyously,
    Who Dance!
    Instinct of Childhood,
    A joy in the days of youth,
    A release from care to the adult.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 13, 2009

    Topics: Uncategorized


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