On July 25, 2022, Clara Cravey Stanley, a former dancer with Harkness Ballet and Ballet de Caracas and the longtime head of the Houston Ballet Academy, passed away at the age of 72. She was a loving wife, aunt, stepmother and grandmother.
Clara was born July 1, 1950, in West Palm Beach, Florida, to Francis and Charlene Cravey. As a young girl she always loved dance and began taking ballet lessons at age 6. She continued this love of dance for over 60 years. She danced professionally with the Harkness Ballet of New York, where she traveled to Europe, Russia and the Middle East. She was also a founding member and principal dancer of the Ballet de Caracas in Venezuela, with whom she toured worldwide.
Clara joined the Houston Ballet Academy faculty in 1978. In 1991, she was appointed principal of the Academy, a position she enjoyed for 15 years. Many of her students affectionately called her “Mama Cravey,” since she was like a mother to many of them. During that time she trained dancers who went on to careers with Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Nederlands Dans Theater, Texas Ballet Theater and many more.
Clara also taught master classes at the Beijing Dance Academy in China, various schools in Japan, and North Carolina School of the Arts. From 2000–03 Clara also served as the president of the National Association of Schools of Dance. In 2010, she was appointed associate professor at the School of Dance for the University of Oklahoma, later becoming an associate director. She continued to share her wealth of knowledge, wisdom, artistry and technique to those she taught and mentored. After teaching for eight years at OU, she retired and was named Professor Emerita of Dance by the OU Board of Regents.
Clara was a true gift to the dance world, and her memory will live on in the hearts and minds of all her former students and colleagues both here and around the world. Her energetic spirit, great sense of humor, and intense love for her friends and family were what made her such a special and talented person to all who knew her. Clara is survived by her loving husband, Kent; her sisters, Caren Armstrong and Claudia Gumbinner; Julie Priolo (her niece) and her husband, Lucas, and their children; her stepsons, Robert Stanley and James Stanley, and their wives Wendy and Jessica, respectively; her seven grandchildren; as well as other family members and close friends throughout the world.
Our hearts are heavy with her loss, but comfort comes in knowing she is joyfully dancing for and has perfect peace in the hands of her heavenly Father. She leaves a wonderful and rich legacy to all those dancers that ever had the opportunity to learn, dance and perform with one of the great ballerinas of our time. —Julie Priolo