I was extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Ronn Guidi this week. Ronn founded the world-famous Oakland Ballet Company in 1965.
It’s interesting that Ronn would pass at this time of year, the start of what could be called “The Nutcracker” season. After resigning as artistic director of the Oakland Ballet, Ronn brought productions of his “Nutcracker” to communities around the country. The Grand Forks area was lucky enough to be one of them.
For several years in a row, Ronn auditioned, trained and directed dozens of local children for his “Nutcracker” at Chester Fritz Auditorium. A great experience for those kids, no doubt. It became something of a holiday tradition locally. That’s how I got to know him.
He made a habit of putting local celebrities into his “Nutcrackers.” In Oakland, that meant members of the Oakland Raiders. He even cast me a couple of times as the Jack-In-The-Box, a nondancing role, mercifully. I got a huge kick out of seeing my name listed in the program BETWEEN two real Russian dancers. I’ve got a copy of that program somewhere to prove it.
In addition to being a wildly talented artist and teacher, Ronn was also a great raconteur. I loved talking with him on and off television. Among his stories were several about working with the great American composer Aaron Copland, who wrote the music for the “Rodeo” and “Billy the Kid” ballets.
Ronn also always had great gossip. He knew who was doing what to whom in the ballet world.
Ronn had too much energy to be resting in peace right now. I suspect wherever he is he’s putting something together for the stage. No doubt something really wonderful.