Kneeland’s work was brilliant. Started in the 50’s, she used filmed selections from the classics to instruct dance students. She brought in great dancers from all over the world and filmed them performing several variations and pas de deux. This project was called ‘Great Moments of the Dance’. While editing these films, Kneeland realized that what the great dancers did with their bodies in performance was NOT taught in the traditional ballet classroom.
At their first meeting, Jo Anna Kneeland had already finished her initial research and trained several dancers. She picked students with difficult bodies (vs. perfect ballet proportions) and other physical problems to better prove her theory. i.e.: “By teaching the “how” rather than teaching the “what”, all could dance beautifully.
Theory: Train the student to move using science in a way that recreates a finished artist’s instinctive movements.
This revelation was documented in a three-part article in Dance Magazine in the 60’s called ‘The Dancer Prepares’ featuring Claudia Cravey, recently Ballet Mistress for Ballet Florida, and her sister Clara Cravey Stanley, currently Dean of Ballet, at the University of Oklahoma School of Dance.
When Ruth saw this extraordinary method and its results in 1963, she immediately joined Jo Anna to teach others. Ruth brought knowledge of Kinesiology to the team as well as her experience as dancer and teacher. Ruth opened a branch of Kneeland’s school, Imperial Studios, in Fort Lauderdale, FL and continued her teaching, using these principles of kinesiology and anatomy as applied to dance. Lydia Joel, editor of Dance Magazine at the time, approached Kneeland and Petrinovic in 1966 to share this work in New York City at the Joffrey Studios.
Lydia Joel further urged that the material also be presented to Rebekah Harkness. Mrs. Harkness was invited to Palm Beach to see the process in action. Mrs. Harkness came with Donald Saddler, an original member of American Ballet Theater, and Vice President of the Harkness organization to watch a demonstration by the student dancers. They knew then that this was something special and invited Jo Anna and Ruth to train the Harkness faculty.
Later on, Mrs. Harkness needed someone on a full-time basis, trained in the RPM technique, to continue teaching her students and company dancers. From London, David Howard was picked for that role. Mrs. Harkness brought Howard to Spain to be trained by Petrinovic during the three month filming of ‘Dr. Coppelius’, based on Coppelia. Filming took place in the mornings and then during the long siesta from 1pm to 5 pm Ruth would work with David. After three months they returned back to the US.
From 1966 to 1970 Ruth commuted to New York City holding the position of Director of Research and Training at Harkness House for Ballet Arts. While there, she and David Howard trained several faculty members for the organization. David started teaching the trainees and a group of very young children, something he didn’t enjoy. Ruth explained to him, “You can not be a teacher unless you experience what it is to teach an 8, 9 and 10-year olds and work your way up.” After completing his training he went on to teach the company and new teachers. He and Ruth remained close friends until his death in 2013.
Ruth was in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida from 1963 to 1982, first as Director of Imperial Studios of Ballet, and later in 1974 as Founder and Artistic Director of the Atlantic Foundation for the Performing Arts moving her Imperial students there. Board members included Donald Saddler and June Taylor. The school was a full immersion dance school for high school students. During this time, Ruth continued teaching, focusing and adapting lessons to the levels they were taught.
Ruth created an entire syllabus for age-appropriate pedagogy thereby establishing a strong base for young students.
In 2013 Cheryl Ale, a life-long student and devotee of Ruth’s from Imperial and Atlantic Foundation days, approached her about documenting her training methods and working with Cheryl to reintroduce the original knowledge as Revolutionary Principles of Movement (RPM).
Now, Ruth Petrinovic, who originally taught the first groups at the Harkness House has agreed to mentor RPM. She has compiled the RPM Teachers’ Manual that embodies the foundation for this effective method of teaching.
In August 2014 RPM held its first official RPM refresher and training program (Foundational Seminar) and had a good turn out. More Seminars were held in three states in 2015 and 2016. We hope more teachers will take advantage of this informative and in-depth knowledge of RPM.