A Century of Dancing Ends in Santa Monica as Joan Bayley Joins History...
February 17, 2022
Written by: Ashley Griffin
Joan Bayley, classical dancer, and principle choreographer/choreographic assistant during MGM's Golden Era passed away on January 5th 2022, just shy of her 102nd birthday. Don't know who she is? Neither do a lot of people. And that needs to change.
Often called "The Greatest Dance Teacher There Ever Was," the musical theater and dance world was forever changed for the better because of Joan.
Joan was born on May 23rd 1920. A classical ballet dancer trained by Muriel Stewart (one of her "child protegés") and Carmelita Maracchi, she went on to dance for Balanchine (both in the film of "On Your Toes" and at NYCB at the very beginnings of the company, including performing in the first professional production of "Serenade.") She found her niche at MGM, where she soon became a choreographer and choreographer's assistant (principally for Bob Alton) for basically every great Golden Age MGM musical.
Her credits include everything from "American in Paris" and "White Christmas," to "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" and "South Pacific" (for which she singlehandedly recreated the Broadway choreography on the film cast.)
Joan received praise and gratitude from everyone from Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe for helping get them dance ready, to established dance stars like Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, Donald O'Connor and her especial friend George Chakiris (who she discovered.) She also worked with Vera Ellen, Shirley Jones, Agnes DeMille, Lestor Horton and many others.
Eventually Joan started teaching at major dance studios in Los Angeles - the last to pass on Carmelita's technique and training style. She taught at the Westside Academy of Dance until she was 99 years old, and even after she occasionally taught on Zoom. Joan was unique, one of a kind. Many well-known teachers could instantly recognize one of Joan's students in their class.
She was married to the love of her life Ray Weamer for 60 years (he passed away in 2004.) Ray was an original Balanchine dancer who moved into dancing and coaching for Hollywood musicals and danced into his 50's.
Joan had a tremendous impact on me. I knew her since before I was born - my mom was a ballet dancer, and Joan was her teacher from an early age. I was finally allowed to take classes from her when I turned 17 (she let me in a year early.)
Joan changed my life personally and professionally - helping me become the artist I am today and becoming a second grandmother to me. I know how big of a role she played in my accomplishing my dreams of performing and creating on Broadway and how I always knew she was in my corner, cheering me on (as she was for all her students.)
She was known for her kindness, her work ethic, and the reverence and joy she created just by entering a room – not for being a celebrity (though she certainly deserved to be.) She is the historical link between the Ballet Russes era and the modern era – spanning every style, genre and generation in between.
She is beloved by her students who remained loyal to her for decades – her classes somehow sat in the midst of a remarkable duality – one where beginners felt welcome and stayed for years, and the most advanced professionals sometimes couldn't make it through, and had to leave before the end, utterly exhausted, but proclaiming how much better they were for the experience.
Joan is survived by her daughter Deborah Galambos, her grandsons Guy Galambos, Andrew Galambos and their wives Shoshannah and Holly (respectively) as well as her great-grandchildren Noah Galambos, Emma Galambos, Ezra Galambos, Zane Galambos and several first cousins in the U.S. and Canada. Joan was especially proud that Ezra is following in her footsteps as a dancer and has inherited her Great Grandmother's graceful head, neck and arms.
For more information on Joan please visit: http://www.joanbayley.com