Sunday, September 25, 2016

Rosemerry Fuhrmann Hanian

Artists of every kind have made Covington a special place in the hearts of many residents and visitors, artists ranging from sculptors and watercolorists to theatrical thespians and wood carvers. One of the most influential artists to have graced this area however, was Rosemerry Emelia Fuhrmann Hanian, a master of the art of dance. 

Not only did she provide dance performances of a sophisticated and international flavor, but she shared her experiences and expertise with many young people in the community through her outstanding dance instruction studio, the Creative Dance Center. Many of those students have gone on to excel in college and professional dance careers.

Rosemerry, at right, and her students

She opened her studio in Covington in 1967, and the article below was written six years later, in 1973.  

Where Dancing is an Art

October 1973 Tammany Touch Magazine
By Leslie Fardeau

Mrs. Rosemerry Fuhrmann, who teaches dancing in the Covington area, is nationally known for her interpretive dancing and several roles in Broadway productions. She is presently teaching modern dance, ballet, and East Indian courses to girls ranging from five to eighteen. Using dance as an element of worship has always been important to Mrs. Fuhrmann.

She first began to develop this in 1952 when she studied East Indian Dancing with Hidassah in New York City. Part of their training included choreographing the 23rd Psalm. Because Indian dancing is so often invocational and reverential, this training has been invaluable to her. In 1962 when she was a dance instructor at Marymount School in New York, she taught a group of girls to choreograph the Lord's Prayer. The Mother General of the Catholic Church was present at the time and exhibited her approval and delight about the performance. 

The residents of St. Tammany Parish are most familiar with recent performances in the Christ Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, St. Peter's, St. Paul's and the Priory. The programs all varied according to the wishes of the minister or priest. 

One of the most popular performances was "A Family of Trees", a touching narration by Jules Renard. The subject matter dealt with the interrelationships in a group of stately trees; and many interesting parallels may be drawn with people. "Gymno Pedie," a smoothly flowing music piece by Eric Satie, was the accompaniment for the piece.

Another well-received production is "Reverance" in which the dancers evoke a mood of devotion and invite the audience to participate. As the lead dancers call various groups to prayer the viewers are automatically involved through the music and actions of the performers. This particular dance was performed at St. Paul's Chapel this past Christmas and at St. Peter's as well.

It was originally choreographed for the St. Francis Catholic Church in New Orleans at the request of Father Putnam in 1968.

The most exciting events for Rosemerry were the occasions when the minister or priest got involved in the presentation. Using the Bach Magnificat in Das the background music, her girls choreographed the carrying in of the wine and wafers at the priest's request for St. Paul's last year. 

Father Angelo at St. Peter's originated the idea of combining scriptures about the life of Mary with the Dance of Mary, a piece of music from a Bach suite. The result was a touching and significant production.

Dancing is much more than a fun pastime for Rosemerry and her pupils: she sees it as a means of expressing her innermost being. She believes that her students should develop inwardly as well as physically. In her words, "Without true inward grace the technical knowledge is worthless; a certain sense of being, attitude, and approach toward life are essential for a truly complete dancer. Dance is a means of expression and a way of communicating with people.

What better way to worship than with the whole body and not just with your mouth. People are especially moved by the dedication of the girls and because they've chosen to use their training in a special manner. The girls are decidedly more giving, dedicated, and serious because they understand the importance of reverential dancing."

A special group of serious dancers known as the "Dance Players" has performed all over the parish and for many special events throughout the South. The group is composed of Teresa Guderian, Nora Eddy, Linda LeBlanc, Adrienne Norman, Gay Moore, and Mauer Doskey. Their current project will take place at Loyola University on November third.

Teachers and educators from five states will participate in and view sessions on "Developing the Creative Potential in the Multi-Ethnic Group". Doctor Paul Torrance from Atlanta, Georgia, who is nationally known for his work in bringing movement into reading programs, will serve as the co-ordinator.

The dance players are working on exaggerated pantomines for a variety of single words which will emphasize the effectiveness of combining dancing with reading. On November tenth Rosemerry'.' group will be part of four companies who'll be performing at a theatre in Lake Charles. They were invited by Ida Clark, who has a studio in the area, to do some various Indian techniques. The dance players are willing to perform for anyone who would appreciate serious and comprehensive dancing, Rosemerry added.

Dancing is an art as old as man, even the oldest cave paintings depict figures in typical dance movements. Early man copied his dance patterns from the animals around him; such as the courtship rituals of the cranes. The dances of primitive people are not merely expressions of the desire to jump, stamp and have fun; they often reveal important attitudes about birth, love, death, nature, and worship.

Although many of the primitive tribal dance forms have disappeared as man's sophistication has increased, the Western world still retains many forms which probably originated in the Middle Ages. Folk dancing, court dancing, wandering troubadours, and church plays of the Middle Ages included mystery, miracle, and morality plays which were elaborate with large casts and dramatic scenic effects. 

The first players and dancers were the clergy; as the casts grew larger the common people were given parts. Eventually, as dancing passed into the hands of the people, theatrical dancing became acceptable as entertainment. Although it has its roots in the past, we can see the contemporary application of dancing in very special ways, right here in St. Tammany Parish.

Click on the image for the article clipping from above.

As a child, Rosemerry learned dance from local teachers, then attended Southeastern and LSU to further perfect her skills. Her decision to focus her attention on the dance styles of India enabled her to bring a special flair to her performances and endeared her to many involved in Broadway productions. In 1955, she took part in the second national tour of "Kismet" where she played the Princess Samaris of Bangalore

She was a choreographer as well as on stage as an "Angel" for the production of "The King and I," in New York and was also a choreographer for "Kismet." She lived and worked in New York for two decades, achieving remarkable success in her career on the Broadway stage before returning home.

Once back in Covington, she established the Covington Dance Center. The first dance studio was located in the old Werhli Home in downtown Covington. Later, she moved it to a former church building on 23rd Avenue, just one block away from the Covington Civic Center, where the main auditorium was later named in honor of her father, well-known area businessman and showman Charles Sidney August Fuhrmann.

She became a legend in the area and across the world of Dance.  When she died in 1992, she left a "legacy of thousands of lives touched by her love of dance" as well as teaching her students the "thrill of creativity." 

She was featured in Dixie Roto Magazine in 1954, including a cover photo


Many of her dance performances were especially choreographed for certain occasions, aimed at conveying specific meanings through interpretive dances. The community  looked forward to each new creative performance, and Rosemerry's knowledge and teaching of those skills were appreciated. Each new expression of those skills through heartfelt performances was warmly anticipated.  

Her expertise in the dance styles of India even brought her to the 1984 World's Fair to take part in special performances on "Asian Day. " 

Her Creative Dance Center students were active not only in local productions, but they also took part in several Jazzfest presentations, danced with the New Orleans Symphony and Tulane University Summer Lyrics Theater, and even went to Los Angeles to tape a segment for the CBS "Young Audiences" program.

Her sister Patricia Clanton said of Rosemerry, "She felt a reverence for all life. She dedicated her life to dance, to the arts, and to creativity. She nurtured each student. She loved each student, and they loved her in return." 

As a result, her love of dance has spread outward, first through her students, then the community, and now the world. Once again the artists of Covington have made their mark on the hearts and minds of those far beyond its boundaries. For art knows no boundaries, and in the case of dance, it is indeed an international form of communication.

A newspaper article from 1994