Capital Region Scrapbook: A Ballerina’s return home

Capital Region Scrapbook looks back at the return home in 1958 of dancer Jeannette Siedband, a Mont

Jeanette Siedband was always on her toes.

During the late 1950s, the dancer had appeared on television shows starring Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle and Ernie Kovacs. She had made moves in the national company of “South Pacific” and the New York City Center production of “The Pajama Game.”

During the summer of 1958, Siedband was back home in the Capital Region — at least for July and August.

Jeanette, a graduate of Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant High School, had agreed to appear in a series of nine musicals at the Colonie Musical Theatre in Latham — later the Colonie Coliseum. The small arena with the circular stage was full of dancers every morning.

Getting noticed

Siedband, 21, was qualified. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Stefkovits began studies in dance with Phyllis Marmein in the New School of Ballet during her freshman year in high school. Tommy Sternfeld of WRGB Television noticed the performer, and soon cast her on his “Teenage Barn” show. The long-running program had premiered in 1948 and featured students who sang, danced and played musical instruments.

Siedband later appeared on WRGB’s “Earle Pudney Show.” She earned a full scholarship to study at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass. Others liked what they saw in Jeanette; in 1956, she was chosen model of the year by the Schenectady Photographic Society.

Siedband, who stood 5-foot-1 and weighed 95 pounds, did not need her résumé in Latham. She and her friends began exercises around 10 a.m., and worked until noon with choreographer Allen Waine. The group received a one-hour break, but nobody ate lunch — not with more strenuous exercise planned for later in the day.

Long days

Reporter Bob Hecox of the Schenectady Gazette watched the action as the group prepared for opening night.

“The whole ensemble follows practically the same tough schedule,” Hecox wrote. “Each of the three groups — actors, singers and dancers — work separately in rehearsal until the end of the six-day period. Then the three phases are blended carefully into a whole and the finishing touches are added in final dress rehearsal.”

Hecox said the three “teams” looked forward to the end of the day.

“There are two high points,” he wrote. “One is shortly after five o’clock when everyone makes a dash for the nearest restaurant. The other, and higher point, is that late, late hour when sack time comes.”

Siedband knew Colonie was just a temporary gig. She hoped to become a classic ballerina, and would return to her New York City apartment — and walks through Central Park with an espresso in hand — at summer’s end.

Categories: Life and Arts

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