Bert Balladine Biography
Roman “Bert” Balladine
…the Dance Psychologist
December 22, 1927 – March 14, 2009
“Ladies! Dance like a peacock, not a feather duster!”
Bert has been in show business all of his life. Born in Europe, he was an acrobat in European circuses by the time he was fourteen.
He toured around the world as an acrobatic dance team, also known as an “adagio team.” His team did everything from jazz to Spanish to fantasy. Bert remembers working in Hong Kong. His dance team would get booked in several shows a night and travel by rickshaw between locations.
His travels included: Zagreb, Croatia (formerly Yugoslavia), Calcutta, India, Hong Kong, Tokyo, the Philippines, and Colombo, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Australia, New Zealand, and of course the Americas.
He studied ballet in Paris and then in Germany with the well known Antonia Kern, a soloist with the Komische Oper and musical German films. This woman took him under her wing and became like a foster mother to him.
As a young man, he studied Spanish Dance in Spain and appeared in several American film productions while living there. “King of Kings” was one of them. The casting people were expecting blonde dancers, but when they saw Bert, they immediately placed him into a Gypsy part. Bert says he even worked with real Gypsies in some of the biblical scenes.
He was a recognized personality in other dance venues, from opera to nightclubs to musical films where he worked with Germany’s most famous musical star, Marika Roekk, and French star Josephine Baker.
His introduction to Middle Eastern Dance was in Lebanon and in Egypt around l958. where he was in contact with the late Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca. He has also worked with Nagwa Fouad, Sohair Saki and other notable stars. His attraction to belly dance was that it wasn’t structured like some forms of dance, notably ballet. Each Raks Sharki was governed by the music and style of the performer. Bert felt that choreography instead of improvisation is like ready-to-wear clothing rather than designer fashions.
Already a full-fledged show biz person in Europe and in the Middle East, he arrived into the San Francisco Bay area in the early 60s, during the Golden Years of Hippiedom. Bert worked what was then known as the “International Settlement” area; several blocks of show business enterprises in and around Broadway and Pacific Avenue in San Francisco. This included well-known clubs to many dancers of that time: Gigi’s, 12 Adler, Bagdad, the Casbah and more. He played played finger cymbals, ate fire and played castanets with the late flamenco dancer, Cruz Luna, and even danced with snakes. A poster once announced, “Los Belly Dancers con Culebras Vivas.”
Starting classes in his studio apartment, Bert graduated to teaching at recreational centers and it was considered quite racy, since he was a MALE belly dancer. Governor Reagan later offered him the Award of Honor from the State of California that gave him credibility to teach his programs elsewhere.
Bert was the first person to introduce the idea of dance seminars in Germany in 1980. He was brought in by Ziba, also known as Judy Bari and thereafter was the darling of the European dance students. He taught for many big names such as Dietlinde Karkutli of Frankfurt, Samara of Stuttgart and Beata Sifuentes of Berlin. He opened the door for myself and many other seminar teachers to cross the ocean to teach on a more international level. Our dance started to bloom in all corners of the western world, once Europe came onboard with major dance seminars featuring guest artists.
His influence on dancers worldwide has been far reaching. As for me, my dance style totally changed from Frenetic Robot to Sensual Oriental Dancer through his words: “Feel! Emote! Groove on the music.”—remember, it WAS the 60s and 70s after all. Teaching more than just steps, Bert was often described as a Dance Psychologist. He would zero in on a dancer and through words and imagery create a dancing butterfly. As a teacher, Bert tries to instill the intangible: Feeling, Emotion, Expression and Soul. From beginning level and up…no matter how intricate the movement is…to him it is nothing without feeling. Said Bert, “Ladies, be proud and carry yourself as a star on stage. If this old farmer with a vaudeville background can do it – you can do it too. “Ladies…dance like a queen. Be proud of what you have - and if you don’t have it, imagine that you do!”
Bert thoroughly enjoyed his “other” life where he would retreat to recharge his “charm glands”--- that is his farm in Petaluma, CA.
In the midst of emerald green wine country, he lived on his farm with his favorite other passion—his animals. He surrounded himself with exotic chickens, horses, rabbits that seem to wear wear heavy eye liner, sheep, goats and more. He jokingly told his friends that his sheep are trained to call him “Beeerrrrt.”
After a long illness, Bert passed onto the “big stage in the sky” on March 14, 2009 at his beloved “BS Ranch” in Petaluma, CA. He is survived by his cousin and Domestic Partner, Glenn Schneider also known under his professional name Gregg Balfour, a retired ballet dancer himself. Bert always drew his support and love from the many dance friends from throughout the world. Says Bert, “The highest compliment a dancer can pay me is not to say how many steps she has learned, but that she feels joyful, beautiful and empowered.”
(To learn more about Bert Balladine’s life and philosophies,
see dvd, “Once More With Feeling”)
A Tribute to Bert Balladine
Amaya says, "One of my favorite Bert-isms: "I have an idea! You be like a chocolate candy bar on stage and I will join you as a man who hasn't eaten in a week!"
Roman "Bert" Balladine… …The Dance Psychologist
December 22, 1926 – March 14, 2009
HIS FINAL BOW
The man that opened many dance doors to many dancers passed onto "the big stage in the sky" on March 14, 2009, a victim of pneumonia. Dance partner, mentor, friend, coach, entertainer, part time cowboy, whole hearted animal supporter and fabulous storyteller, Bert led a life rich in experiences from all over the world. Born in Europe, he performed adagio, ballet, vaudeville, Spanish, burlesque, was cast in movies, i.e. he was a true performer in all aspects. He performed in European circuses from the time he was fourteen. His lengthy career included performances with German star: Marika Roekk, French Star: Josephine Baker, Egyptian stars: Samia Gamal, Tahia Carioca, Soheir Saki, Nagua Fuad, and Flamenco dancer, Cruz Luna.
In the last third of his life he became a Raks Sharki/Oriental Dance/Bellydance teacher and coach.... He often said, “I am not really a Bellydancer, I am a performing artist who is specializing in a certain art form.” And it was in this art form that his other talent bloomed…his ability to make a seminar dance student feel like a butterfly. His humor, tact, sharp eye and descriptive ability gave birth to many professional dancers.
He was the first to introduce the workshop idea in Ramstein, Germany in the early ‘80s, when The German American Belly Dance group known as The European Association of American Middle Eastern Dancers (EAAMED) sponsored him. This paved the way for Amaya and other international teachers to enter the European market. Bert went on to charm students in Frankfurt (Dietlinde Karkutli), Stuttgart (Samara), Berlin (Beata Cifuentes) and more.
He was well known for his compassion for animals of all kinds. After many gala performances, Bert would often stop by the kitchen to take left-over restaurant food home to his farm animals because he always claimed the animals helped him recharge his "charm glands”.
Born in Europe and naturalized as an American citizen, Bert always identified himself as a Berliner. Bert was a self-educated, multi-lingual and internationally based man. He felt he was a citizen of an artistic world without borders. His nationality was “show business” Bert’s artistic and creative performances and well attended classes touched thousands of fans, students and friends over a career span of 50 years.
Cousin and Domestic Partner, Glenn Schneider, has suggested that friends and fans may honor Bert by making a contribution to: The Petaluma Hospice, 416 Payran Street, Petaluma, CA 94952 or The Milo Foundation, a non-profit domestic animal sanctuary, http://www.milofoundation.org “Dance like a peacock---not a feather duster!” -Bert Balladine