Founder of Georgia Dance Theatre, Frankie Levy, dies

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Frankie Levy's Georgia Dance Theatre was best known for its production of The Little Matchgirl.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Frankie Levy's Georgia Dance Theatre was best known for its production of The Little Matchgirl.

Frankie Levy, the founder of Georgia Dance Theatre, died Wednesday in Augusta. She was 90.

Levy, who began dancing at age 7, founded the ballet company in 1968. Young Augusta women studied under her direction until the company disbanded in 1982. The company earned recognition across the Southeast and was best-known for its annual Christmas production of The Little Matchgirl.

“There was a right way to do things and a wrong way, and you better do them the right way,” said Ann Marie McManus, a former student of the Georgia Dance Theatre.

Levy was intent on exposing her blossoming dancers to the best of the dancing world. She traveled with her students to New York City to see shows, meet outstanding teachers and visit places such as the Russian Tea Room, McManus said.

Levy choreographed original, full-length ballets, including one for the 250th anniversary of the city of Augusta that was later performed in London. Her company also performed Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel on stages at Bell Auditorium and Augusta State University’s Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre.

“She loved to teach. Her No. 1 passion was dancing,” said her grandson, Jeremy Estroff, of Atlanta.

Levy, a mother of two and grandmother of five, also served on the Georgia Council for the Arts and the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association board. After closing the dance company, she sold real estate, taught private dance classes, painted and played bridge.

The dance teacher’s legacy continues through her many students, including BeBe Schweppe, who danced the lead in The Little Matchgirl and formed the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

“She was the center of the creativity. All the ideas sprang from her,” said daughter Ann-Toni Estroff. “She could see talent in other people, but she was very decisive in what she wanted.”

Levy’s great-grandparents settled in the Augusta area after emigrating from Germany in the 1840s. She grew up attending the Congregation Children of Israel on Walton Way and later the Adas Yeshurun Synagogue.


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