Unfortunately Edwina Fontaine is no longer with us.
Edwina Seaver Fontaine, born in 1928, was a former Balanchine and NYC Ballet ballerina. She died on November 24th 2014. For a long time Edwina worked along Clara Pilates, Romana Kryzanowska, Mathilde Klein and John Winters as an Pilates instructor in the original studio of Joseph and at Drago’s Gym. The studio of George Balanchine was located in the same building as the Contrology studio of Joseph and Clara Pilates. Romana Kryzanowska, who also had been a Balanchine dancer, had encouraged Edwina to learn Pilates after she retired from her dance career. Besides teaching in the studio, Edwina also worked as a ballet teacher for ten years. And she kept on working almost till the end. In her teaching she had an eagle’s eye, was strict, but had a wonderful sense of humor.
Edwina lived in The West Village in NY. The last few months of her life she dislocated her hip, broke a leg, broke an ankle. She didn’t recover from it. Her tenant, Albert Schwartz, acted as a family representative and did a lot for her in her last year. He wrote on his article:
“Over the next 23 years, death and illness came to visit, and the last of those artist-tenants was Edwina. As Edwina passed her 85th birthday, it was clear that she was not her past robust self. She was still teaching Pilates, but seemed increasingly confused and forgetful about things that had just occurred. Then one night she fell and dislocated her hip getting out of a cab. When she returned from Roosevelt Hospital, she could barely walk. I had her sign a health care proxy and power of attorney, and set about setting up her healthcare. I got her on Medicaid, got Medicare straightened out, and got two homecare agencies to send someone so she had help eight hours a day. And then I set out to get her into an assisted living setting, an apartment-like setting where residents could come and go, but which had social services and medical assistance. I got her into the Lott Residence, on 107th Street and Central Park West, but they don’t allow cats, and Edwina couldn’t live without her 17 pound orange coon. So next I tried Village Care, at 46th Street, and they took cats. With a little assist from persons with potential oomph, I got Edwina in. In the course of getting Edwina in, I had to supply information about her life. She told me that she had changed her name while in the NYC Ballet and that it was originally Edwina Seaver. So I Googled her, and voilà—scores of astounding photos of this gorgeous 20-year-old dancer published by Time Life and others. And as I helped her pack I found dozens more, along with theater programs. She hadn’t been a great star, but she was at the center of the ballet world in 1947, a historic survivor of a cultural renaissance in New York, a student of the great George Balanchine, and a long time teacher of little girls.”
Edwina was quite a personality, a tall, gracious and remarkable woman with perfect posture. She was an inspiration for dancers and Pilates instructors all over the world.
May she rest in peace.
©Marjolein van Sonsbeek