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Mildred Ann Arnold

June 4, 1928 May 7, 2011
Mildred Ann Arnold
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Obituary for Mildred Ann Arnold

Mildred Ann Arnold – ballerina, dancer on stage and screen, and devoted teacher – passed away gracefully at home in Brookings, of lung cancer at the age of 82. “Miss Millie,” as she was affectionately known to her hundreds of students, was born in Los Angeles, June 4, 1928, to Fred and Eugenia Mauldin. Mildred Ann started ballet class at the age of 4 with Ernest Belcher in Beverly Hills, and such was her dancing and acting talent that by age 6 she performed professionally in the 1935 movie “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Her next engagement was a featured part at the age of 14 in a stage production of the “The Waltz King.” During her high school years, even as she maintained an A average, Millie appeared in various motion pictures such as “North Star” (1943) and “Song of Russia” (1944). By age 16, she was dancing on Broadway and studying under such legendary teachers as David Lieten, Madame Irina Nijinska, Aida Broadbent, Maria Bekefi, and Eugene Loring. When in New York, she also studied at the famed American Ballet School. She appeared as soloist in the New York productions of “Rhapsody” and “The Red Mill” (1945-1947). After returning home, Mildred Ann brought her talents to the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Company, performing for 10 seasons in such works as “Sally” and soloing in “Rose Marie” and “The Red Mill.” Some of her later appearances were at the Los Angeles Greek Theatre in featured roles in “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes.” She worked in both the Los Angeles and New York companies of “Louisiana Purchase” and “Three Wishes for Jami.” Returning to the screen, she performed in the movies “Three Wishes” (1952) and “White Christmas” (1954) and danced as soloist in The Eddie Cantor Show on television. It was in Hollywood that she officially began teaching – as private coach to Marilyn Monroe, Esther Williams and Mitzi Gaynor. In June 1954, after declining five opportunities to join a ballet company, Mildred Ann became a soloist of the famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. As the touring company introduced audiences to classical dance wherever it went, it introduced Millie to the international stage, including such exciting places as Venezuela, England, and France. During a time when few women did so, Mildred Ann attended UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), but due to her busy performance career she fell short of a Bachelor of Arts degree by one term. It was also during her college career that she suffered a broken back and was in a full body cast for six months, but was back dancing before the year was out. At UCLA she met John Arnold and they married in The Little Brown Church in Studio City, Calif., in September 1955. Due to unusual circumstances they raised John’s sister’s four children. Following an extraordinarily successful career on stage and in film, Mildred Ann founded The Ballet Arts School of Dance in Los Angeles, which she owned and managed for 25 years. During this time, headmistress of Ballet Arts, “Miss Millie,” desired to give her students the same rich experience of performance that she had experienced and thus founded a children’s dance troupe: The West Valley San Fernando Junior Ballet Company, later the San Fernando Ballet Company, and finally Ballet USA. While she served as artistic director, choreographer and costume designer, Millie’s husband John was her right-hand man, stage managing and constructing sets. Ballet USA performed in various small theatres and well-known venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, the Wilshire Ebel Theater and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Millie created approximately 10 original ballets for children – “Madeline,” “Children’s Games,” “Horse-n-Around,” “Daffodils,” and “Grandma’s Attic,” to name a few – as well as many stand-alone dance pieces to exhibit the talents of her students. Many company members graduated from the junior dance company and worked professionally in film, stage, and television. Michelle Adler Marco, a student of Miss Millie’s from 1963 to 1973 and soloist in Ballet USA, has continued the teaching legacy. Much like Millie, Ms. Marco has taught for more 30 years and is currently dance director of Carousel Dance Studio in Los Angeles. “Miss Michelle” inspires young people in the way Millie inspired Michelle to dance. Michelle plans to recreate Millie’s original ballets along with Ballet USA company members who still remain close friends 48 years after meeting at the Ballet Arts school. When Millie hung up her dance shoes for good, she worked as the store manager of Alexon, a woman’s boutique in I. Magnin department store in Woodland Hills, Calif. In 1998, she retired and moved to Brookings, where she lived a peaceful and quiet life by the sea until her death. She was an active member of the Tri-City Bridge Club and later a board member and vice president of the club. Dr. Carl Utterback, Millie’s primary care physician, wrote, “Her passing was quite difficult for me to accept given that I had grown quite fond of her. She taught me a lot about the impermanence of life and independence of the human spirit as she chronicled her life for me. It was the highest honor to care for her in my feeble way. In some way, I learned to dance with Millie and know that the rhythm of her life touched many.” A dispersal of Millie’s ashes will be at 5 p.m. Friday, June 3, at Lone Ranch Beach. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to Chetco Community Public Library, 405 Alder St., Brookings, OR 97415, (www.chetcolibrary. org); or the Oasis Shelter Home, P.O. Box 932, Gold Beach, OR 97444 (www.oasisshelterhome.org).

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