After nearly 60 years teaching dancers in Needham and Newton, Paulette Harwood has hung up her ballet slippers.
Harwood closed her Paulette’s Ballet Studio at the Saco Pettee Mill Building on Oak Street in Newton in July, a place where Harwood taught generations of young dancers to move with grace since 1980.
In a letter to students on her website, Harwood, who is believed to be in her 90s, noted that she intended to move into a new studio, but she fell, breaking her hip and leg. The need for surgery meant that she just didn’t have the strength to find a new location.
“It is with great sadness that I can no longer give each and every one of you, my beloved students, the attention and care that you deserve. I have loved every single moment of teaching and sharing my love of dance with you,” she wrote.
“With that we have remained committed to seeing your child’s dance education continue …and are excited to announce a partnership between Paulette’s Ballet Studio and Boston Ballet’s School.”
Meanwhile, the countless photos and articles that once hung on Paulette’s Ballet Studio’s walls showing highlights of her career, as well as those of her students, are being gifted away. There just isn’t enough wall space for one person to have all of them.
“Paulette Harwood is a gem and this is a major loss for our region,” said Newton-Needham Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman.“She gave her heart to her students and they adored her. She also was a successful and fully engaged member of our business community and a friend. We thank her for all she’s given and wish her the very best in her retirement.”
Prior to her current location, Paulette taught at Mills Falls just a few blocks away, and prior to that operated across the river in Needham. Her dancers performed at many chamber events and were always a highlight at Needham’s annual Street Fair and Harvest Fair.
Harwood started dancing as a young girl and at the age of 15, while still a student at Brookline High School, moved to New York City where she eventually became a soloist at Radio City Music Hall in the Corps de Ballet. She married, came back to the Boston area and opened her studio in 1959.
In addition to her work as an instructor, she has also been a choreographer for high schools, colleges, and the Boston Celtics. She also designed costumes for contestants in the Miss Massachusetts and Miss American pageants, as well as for students in her own shows.
“I hope that you will continue to keep the spirit of dance in your life,” Harwood wrote to her students. “Keep the friends you made here. Keep the discipline you learned here. Keep the pursuit of perfection you learned here. Keep the fun and creativity you learned here.”
Harwood has arranged for students to continue their education at the Boston Ballet School, located just down the street from her former location at the Newton-Nexus complex on Needham Street.