Grande Dame of Dance


Barbara Crockett has done her fair share of pliés.
The Fresno native started dance lessons at age 6 and worked her way up to professional ballerina status, performing into her late 50s.
“I loved dance from the day I started,” says Crockett, who turned 90 this past September and continues to teach.
So serious about dance was Crockett that she moved to San Francisco as a high schooler so she could attend the San Francisco Ballet’s school. “I would take lunch period and study period, run out and hop on the street car, take class and then return to school,” Crockett recalls.
She joined the San Francisco company and performed in Swan Lake (“I was one of the little swans”), And Now the Brides (“I was one of the brides and it was a nice role”) and the first U.S. production of The Nutcracker (“We didn’t realize at the time how significant it was.”). There, she met her husband, Deane Crockett, a dancer and instructor at the school.
After World War II, the Crocketts were invited to teach in Sacramento. The Crockett Dance Studio soon followed, and the couple founded the Sacramento Ballet in 1954. “We wanted an outlet for the dancers we were beginning to train,” says Crockett, who served as company director until 1986. Now under the direction of Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, the Sacramento Ballet remains the region’s only organization with a resident company of paid performing artists.
     In 1965, the Crocketts helped form Regional Dance America/Pacific—a group of dance companies that share choreography, classes and performances. Crockett is still involved with the organization.
After Deane passed in 1972, Crockett ran their school until deciding to close its doors in 1994. That same year, Crockett’s daughter, Allyson Deane, along with husband Don Schwennesen—both dancers who also met while performing with the San Francisco Ballet—opened the Deane Dance Center in East Sacramento. (Her other daughter, Leslie Crockett, teaches at a ballet school in San Rafael.)
     Having taught ballet for more than 60 years, Crockett has seen many students become professional dancers and dance teachers. Over time, she says, “the level of technique has risen tremendously.” And dancers today have more opportunities. “There are far more professional companies than there were at the time I was starting.”
Crockett teaches at Deane Dance Center, where she holds the title of honorary director. And though she no longer dances professionally, she stays active with Pilates and tennis and has been known to “bust a move” in class.
Will she ever retire?
“Someday,” she says with a laugh. “It’s the motivation of the students and seeing them progress that keeps me teaching. When I think about stopping teaching, I think, ‘What’s going to happen to this one?’ Very few go on to be professional, but it’s interesting to see who will.”