Gloria Newman: Early (Beginning) Years in Southern California (Mainly L.A.)

Gloria Newman arrived in Los Angeles from New York City in 1954, and soon began teaching at Eugene Loring’s American School of Dance located in a hotel basement on Hollywood Blvd across from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. There she taught “freestyle dance,” Loring’s euphemism for “Modern Dance.” She later (1956) opened her own studio, “SARK” studio located on the corner of National and Roberson Blvd across from Hamilton High School. (This studio was torn down in 1960 to make way for the 10 Freeway.)

SARK was a multi-arts training and performance studio with its name based on the four first letters of the founding members:

S was Schoenberg  - Gloria’s married name to “Bud” Schoenberg

A was Aloni  - Aminidav Aloni an Israeli composer/musician

R was Robinson – Gertrude Rivers Robinson a composer/musician

K was Krevitsky- Nik Krevitsky, an artist

The studio was also the place to see informal performances by invited international guests such as Merce Cunningham and the first performance in America of Ravi Shankar. Dance technique classes taught by Gloria Newman and Richard Oliver were offered along with the other art forms (music and art). It was at SARK that Gloria’s nascent dance company took shape.  The company was first known as “Gloria Newman and Dance Company,” later it morphed into “Gloria Newman Dance Company,” and then in 1962 it became “The Gloria Newman Dance Theater,” but for a very brief hiatus for its performance at the Wilshire-Ebell Theatre in May 1966, it was called “Contemporary Dance Theatre of Los Angeles.”

Lecture demonstrations were presented in the studio and other venues. The first full length commissioned dance to come out of the studio was “Cinderella” produced and performed in December 1958 with music by Robert Armbruster and narration by Morrie Ryskind.  The full orchestra was conducted by Richard Dufallo. Stella Nakadate (now Matsuda) was Cinderella and Bob Turk was the Prince.

With the loss of a permanent home the company rehearsed in various places throughout Los Angeles. Finally, another permanent home studio was found and modified in an industrial park in Anaheim, California.  Here technique classes were resumed, including children’s classes and ballet classes with Oleg Tupine, and of course rehearsals and choreographic adventures. With this move in 1961 the company, soon to be named, “The Gloria Newman Dance Theater” flourished and continued until her death in 1992.  The naming of the “new“ company began as a late night discussion over dinner in her home in the city of Orange.  Gloria, Bud, and dancers Carol Warner and Don Bondi were trying to find the right name. Gloria did not want “dance company”.  She wanted the name to reflect the more comprehensive nature of her choreography.  Thus,” theatre “ seemed appropriate.  Don then raised the question of the spelling of theatre – should it be “-re” British spelling or  “-er” American spelling?  Gloria quickly decided to be American.

© Copyright 2012 Don Bondi  All rights reserved