Claire Mallardi, 91, Dance Workshop Choreographer

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From Chas Norton

Claire Mallardi was involved with the Dance Workshop that used to be part of the Foundation. I worked with her from time to time when she needed lighting help. And she was married to early WGBH director Ed Shearer.

From Fred Barzyk

Ed was working in Cuba when Castro took over. He got kicked out and Dave Davis gave him a job at WGBH. Ed had directed the McCarthy hearings when he was 22 years old. He did a number of science shows and eventually ended up exec, producer of NBC’s big science show on Saturdays.

Claire was just starting at Harvard/Radcliff dancing and teaching. Claire was also part of the vast dance companies that the workshop recorded (thanks to Nancy Mason Hauser) and was an important figure in the Boston art scene.

From the Boston Globe

Stepping into the inspiring beauty of the old Radcliffe College gym, Claire Mallardi took her customary place front and center — the air silent, her students transfixed.

“When she walked into each class it was like nothing I have ever seen since,” said Rika Burnham, a former student.

“It was as if her feet pulled these forces out of the ground, and her hands and arms extended into the universe, and her torso was electrified with energy. She would stand there, summoning these forces, and then suddenly she would click her fingers and the music would start.”

A legendary teacher who founded what is now Harvard University’s dance program, Ms. Mallardi was 91 when she died Oct. 2 in Mount Auburn Hospital…

During some four decades of teaching at Harvard, Ms. Mallardi helped pioneer the recognition of dance as an academic discipline at universities nationally, where before the pursuit had been almost solely the province of conservatories and schools for the performing arts.

From Harvard University

“An artist to the core, she had vision—of what she could realize artistically and of what her students could be and do. Claire had a clear eye for what worked on stage, and a fierce insistence on making her students see and move beyond their own expectations. She turned the old Radcliffe Gym into a dance studio and stage where space and time were the materials for creative thinking and expression and imaginations could soar.”

Myra Mayman, Former Director, Office for the Arts at Harvard 


  1. Leah Weisse on November 17, 2020 at 11:32 am

    I looked, too, for a clip of Claire on Frames of Reference. I think the only digitized clip is of Glow Worm. The tape has been reformatted and is scheduled for future digitization in full. Thanks for all the memories and filling in the blanks for us!

    Leah Weisse
    Production Archival Compliance Manager
    GBH Archives

  2. Marcia Hulley on November 13, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    I was fortunate enough to have danced with Claire Mallardi in that remarkable Radcliffe gym when I was a student at Harvard. Claire was a force of nature and an important mentor in my life. She Inspired all her students and reignited my childhood love of dance.

    Thanks for sharing all these remembrances.

  3. Nancy Mason Hauser on November 12, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    Claire was an old friend and great admirer of choreographer/dancer Remy Charlip, and when I commissioned him, through the WGBH New Television Workshop, to create an original dance program for us in 1978, he included a special duet for Claire and Marlene Lundvall.

    With David Atwood as director, the pair closed the show with Claire (costumed as Pierrot /The Moon) and Marlene (in a flowing yellow dress and broad-brimmed hat/The Sun) tossing an inflatable globe of the Earth back and forth, as they tap danced to Chopin.

    If you need some diversion during these dark days of winter, check out” Dances – Remy Charlip”, part of the “Frames of Reference” Series.

    • Chas Norton on November 13, 2020 at 8:27 am

      Great suggestion but I could not find it.
      CS you provide URL ?

      • Jay Collier on November 13, 2020 at 10:06 am

        Is this what you’re looking for? This is the only clip Open Vault seems to have from that film.

        • Chas Norton on November 13, 2020 at 2:24 pm

          Yes. I found only “Glow Worm”.
          The duet Nancy referred to plus more of the series seems to be behind a firewall of some kind.
          Would love to be able to see more, but am not aware of the rules and regs of the Open Vault (perhaps a misnomer?)

    • Lucinda Winslow on November 23, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Ah, Nancy, I remember that duet. It still rides celestial in my imagination. I, too, took classes from Claire while at Harvard, and somehow it was a different realm, magic, another level of time and space than classes, dorms, college angst, and the rest. She was indeed a force of nature. Thanks, all, for reminding me.

      Lucinda Winslow, Caption Center 1975-80.

  4. Chas Norton on November 12, 2020 at 10:11 am

    A shout out to Jay for helping to expand the recognition of the universe of creative forces that have been around us, and – hopefully – will continue to surround all our endeavors.

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