Sydney Leonard, Boston Ballet Pioneer, Celebrates 100th Birthday

Sydney Leonard, Boston Ballet Pioneer, Celebrates 100th Birthday

CAMBRIDGE, MA — On September 30th, Sydney Leonard celebrated her 100th birthday alongside members of Boston Ballet and her neighbors at The Cambridge Homes, the Independent and Assisted Living Community where she has lived for 13 years.

At the age of 5, Sydney Leonard began ballet class on the top floor of the old Boston Opera House with Madam Maria Paparello, ballet mistress of the Boston Opera Company. Miss Leonard maintained her passion for ballet her entire young adult life, studying and performing even through the tough years of the Great Depression. 

When Madam Paparello retired in 1951, Miss Leonard sustained the mission of the school through a cooperative relationship with the Boston Conservatory of Music. In 1953, she was recruited to teach classes by E. Virginia Williams, who had a ballet school in Malden, and their collaboration was fundamental to the establishment of Boston Ballet School and ultimately the professional Company.

Sydney Leonard worked in all aspects of the Company, as a solo dancer, choreographer and Ballet Mistress. After working 9-5 every day at the Atlantic Monthly magazine as Circulation Manager, Miss Leonard would teach dance until late in the evening. She was involved in every aspect of the growing company, and was responsible for the training and choreography of hundreds of dancers for the Nutcracker and other performances.

Miss Leonard continues to be a cherished member of the Boston Ballet family and beloved by many students and Company dancers. Upon retirement, she was honored by Boston Ballet with a lifetime achievement award and the school established a scholarship in her name.

Pictured above: Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director of Boston Ballet, and Sydney Leonard

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