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Mara, Thalia 1911-2003

MARA, Thalia 1911-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born June 28, 1911, in Chicago, IL; died October 8, 2003, in Jackson, MS. Dancer, educator, and author. Mara was a ballet dancer who later became best known as a teacher and promoter of the arts. Taking up dance at the early age of nine, she was trained by such famous ballet dancers as Michel Fokine, Olga Preobajenska, and Adolph Bolm. Her dancing career formally began in 1926 when she debuted with the Ravinia Park Opera Ballets in Chicago, Illinois. She continued to dance professionally through the 1940s; and her career as a promoter of ballet began in 1947, when she directed the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. After marrying ballet teacher Arthur Mahoney in 1939, Mara became a teacher herself, working as an instructor and director of the School of Dance Arts in New York City from 1944 to 1947; she also taught at the Ballet Repertory Company, beginning in the late 1940s. In 1962, she and her husband, Arthur Mahoney, founded the National Academy of Ballet and Theater Arts in New York City. Although the couple separated in 1964, Mara continued to run the school until it closed in 1973. Invited by the Jackson Ballet Guild to organize a professional ballet troupe, Mara next moved to Mississippi. She directed the dance troupe there from 1975 until 1981. By the late 1970s, Mara was also becoming more involved with ballet competitions. She worked with Robert Joffrey in judging the International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria, and she helped organize the USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) in Jackson, beginning in 1979 and continuing as its artistic director from 1986 until 1994. In addition to being a teacher and judge, Mara wrote almost a dozen books about dance, including Do's and Don'ts of Basic Ballet Barre Exercises (1955), So You Want to Be a Ballet Dancer (1959), and To Dance, to Live (1977). During the last years of her life, she was an active promoter of dance and the arts, founding the nonprofit Thalia Mara Arts International Foundation in 1991. She was honored for her tireless work in 1994, when the City of Jackson named its auditorium Thalia Mara Hall; and she was honored again in 2002 when she received a gold medal for lifetime achievement in the arts from the IBC.



Larkin, Colin, editor, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, third edition, Grove's Dictionaries (New York, NY), 1998.


Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS), October 9, 2003, p. A1.

New York Times, October 11, 2003, p. B15.

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