GROWING UP WITH MR. BOLM
Khaled Ali, Ph.D.
My mother, Marcia Moorhead Gibson, was Adolph Bolm’s student. But he was more than a teacher to her: he was a friend. He and his wife, Beatta, were part of my mother’s family: not through blood, but tangibly, viscerally, in real-time, and in heart and spirit.
My brother and I grew up with Mr. Bolm. Although he died three years before I was born, he was around, he was there in ways that impacted and influenced our lives. He’d supported my mother by giving her what she’d always wanted: training and entry into classical ballet. Through Mr. Bolm, my mother had a private audition with George Balanchine; through Mr. Bolm, my mother had regular acquaintance with Igor Stravinsky. Because of Mr. Bolm, my mother fulfilled her lifelong dream and was a professional dancer: in ballets, operas and the movies. The real litmus test of a person’s value to her, though, was a person’s soul.
My mother grew up in a wealthy and privileged world, graduated from Marlborough School for Girls in Los Angeles, attended elite functions and touched shoulders with what many would call the rich and famous. However, when she began studying with Mr. Bolm, she found real value. He and Mrs. Bolm were the only ones who came to her home the night my grandmother died. The first person my mother visited upon returning from Mexico City, after I’d been born, was Mrs. Bolm. (I have many fond memories of Mrs. Bolm.)
Mr. Bolm approached life respectfully. That, and his cultivated aesthetic were indefatigable influences on my mother. When Mr. Bolm had been a student at The Mariinsky Theatre, he’d toured Europe of his own accord going to many of the great museums to learn and to deepen his own artistic sense. My mother flourished being around him, and she never forgot his warmth or his playful sense of humor with her. He’d tell hell her jokes in French while she and the other students were at the barre; as no one else spoke French, she was the only one who’d laugh.
I am grateful to Mr. Bolm. He fulfilled a wish my grandmother had for my mother - he gave her joy.
Near the end of her life, she wrote:
Mr. Bolm was a wonderful teacher and a great man. He made all of us who studied with him feel that each of us was doing something important. It was a special feeling each of us had. We were treated like prospective dancers of the future. We mattered, no matter if we were experts or not. We were treated as if each of us had a great future. He will be remembered by us all as someone special.