With Ballet in My Soul…
Dance is what inspires me in everything I do. Blissful serendipity meant I was given the opportunity to start ballet classes as a tiny tot and I will forever be grateful to the universe for that. Ultimately, I have become the person I am today because of my desire to always have dance in my life. Participating in dance classes, watching dance, writing about dance and teaching dance — dancing gives me purpose and makes me feel alive!
In fact, you might say that there is “ballet in my soul”. This nifty sentiment comes from an amazing woman named Eva Maze, who has titled her memoir With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario. An engrossing and educational read, I devoured the book in one afternoon and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in dance, theatre, history, travel or the pioneering achievements of extraordinary individuals.
Eva Maze (nee Feldstein) was born in Bucharest, Romania, on a summer day in 1922. Both her parents spoke Russian (her father was from Kiev and her mother was from Bessarabia) so Eva was bilingual in Russian and Romanian at an early age. Jewish by birth, she attended a Catholic school where the nuns taught the students in German and French and she was also tutored privately in English. She believes this early immersion in languages made her interested in the world outside Romania and later learned two additional languages — Spanish and Portuguese — which aided her in her career as an impresario (a theatrical tour manager or promoter). Without a doubt, Eva’s vibrant and fulfilling life will be envied by anyone with even a sprinkling of wanderlust as her personal and professional passions and endeavours have taken her all over the globe.
The book is divided into chronological chapters based upon where Eva’s adventures have taken her. From Bucharest to the United States as an immigrant and then, as a married woman, back to Europe and Asia where she found her professional calling. Conversational in tone, the book provides a fascinating insight into Eva’s encounters with some of the main players in dance and theatre from the 1940s to the 1990s. She studied, danced and worked with so many notable people. These include dance professor, mentor and editor Louis Horst; English ballerinas Moira Shearer and Margot Fonteyn; American choreographer Alvin Ailey and countless others. In short, an incredible assortment of names that dance enthusiasts will recognise crop up in this memoir. A whirlwind journey at times, Eva modestly recalls her experiences and explains how she came to be the prolific producer of more than one hundred different theatrical programmes. Remarkably, this all happened during a time when women were predominantly expected to be stay-at-home wives and mothers. Instead, Eva represented artists and companies from all spheres of the performing arts – dance, music, mime, cabaret and drama – on an international scale. Her words seem to dance across the pages as she describes her experiences and this lively narration is accompanied by an array of historical and modern images which give the book a striking scrapbook appearance.
Chapter One of With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario begins with the statement: “My dreams of being a ballerina were shattered when I was diagnosed with scarlet fever in the Spring of 1929” (page 11). Eva started ballet classes when she was five years old and living in Bucharest but, aged seven, she had to undergo a risky operation following this diagnosis. As Eva was their only child, her parents were understandably protective of her. Unfortunately, their over-zealous need to keep her safe meant that, even once she had recovered, they would not allow her to return to ballet classes. They did, however, indulge her insatiable curiosity for the world around her and the family moved to the United States in 1939, when Eva was a teenager. Here, Eva furthered her education and married a young Air Force private named Oscar Maze and finally had the chance to take the ballet classes she had missed out on during her childhood.
The experiences and cultures that Eva recalls in this book combine to produce an absorbing travelogue. She has lived, worked and spent time in Bucharest, New York, London, New Delhi, Frankfurt, Munich, Corfu, Berlin and Paris. And, now she is in her nineties, she currently resides in Sarasota, Florida. Eva initially found herself gallivanting all around the world because of her husband’s role in the Air Force and his subsequent employment within the flight operations division of Pan American Airlines. Eventually, though, it became her own career that kept her travelling as she worked to “bring the wonderfully artistic world of dance — and other highly creative theatrical mediums — directly to the myriads of passionate spectators who support them worldwide” (page 13).
As Eva discusses a life that spans over almost one hundred years in With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario, readers discover how a multitude of monumental historical events from the twentieth century influenced or impacted upon her in some way. For instance, Eva and her parents left Romania with fortuitous timing. Just a year after their departure, reinforcements of Hitler’s army descended on the country and deported 300,000 Romanian Jews and gypsies to the concentration camps. Later, Eva lived in London during the aftermath of the First World War, when the city was only just beginning to recover from the relentless bombings and strict rationing of food and essential supplies was the norm. Later still, she was living in Berlin when the wall dividing the East and West was constructed and was organising a festival of folk dance at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich when members of the Israeli Olympic team were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
Eva’s spirit as a woman, mother (she has two daughters, Stephanie and Lauri), art lover and entrepreneur is breath-taking. She had a comfortable upbringing, a happy marriage and many opportunities came her way but her thirst for knowledge and yearning to make the most of her life is exceptional. She truly seems to be a female who has paved the way for young women to realise that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it. Certainly, she weaves some wonderfully inspiring quotes into her prose and writes in an open, optimistic and enthusiastic style. My only real criticism of the book is that there is almost too much content for the reader to digest! Eva has so many personal anecdotes and professional accomplishments to share. At times the sheer volume of experiences is quite overwhelming. You could certainly revisit this book a few times and glean further understanding with each reading.
Significantly, it is Eva’s awareness of how dance has shaped her that really resonates with me. She married and supported her husband in his endeavours; earned a college degree in Psychology from Barnard College in New York City and raised two daughters – all while ensuring she never lost her passion for dancing. Eva asserts that ballet was “the prime motivator that allowed me to pursue my dreams” (page 197). She loved the feeling of dancing in class, was an ardent fan of theatre and was motivated to share her passion with others — all sentiments I can relate to. Essentially, I found this book an uplifting read. It is ideal for balletomanes but equally suited to anyone interested in learning about an intelligent, inquisitive and inspiring woman.
If you are intrigued and would like to read about Eva’s life in her own words, With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario is available to buy from Amazon.
“I had found that missing link in my life that would always make me feel good: studying ballet and being involved with dance.”
(Eva Maze, With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario, page 33.)
With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario is published by Moonstone Press LLC.
Georgina Butler is a journalist, a dance writer and a dance teacher who specialises in teaching classical ballet. She previews and reviews productions, writes features and interviews people from the world of dance.