I didn’t have a regular class with Krammy right away when I came to SAB, in September of 1992. I started playing for him as a sub, not regularly for a few years. After a couple of weeks I knew his class; his set barre. He would just give the name of the combination, give steps, and then just a simple, rhythmical formula, basically 2 or 3. That’s all I needed. If 2, I knew exactly the character, I knew the tempo and what he wanted me to play. I just loved it, the freedom was fantastic and you just played with all the energy you wanted to.
Krammy was the most appreciative person, he just appreciated music. His knowledge of music— he would put me to shame! And I’m a professional pianist, I graduated from one of the most famous Conservatories in the world, in Moscow. He knew literally every piece of music, I would play it and he would name it right away. We would play games all the time and I don’t remember one occasion where he didn’t know the piece of music! I would compare him to Violette Verdy, on her same level. Her knowledge was “encyclopedical.” Music, art, literature, theater, and of course dance. Same with Krammy—he would recite Shakespeare plays to me in the dressing room. In Russian of course, but pages and pages. Krammy’s father was a Ballet Master for Opera and Opera House, so basically he grew up inside the Opera House. Krammy could sing entire operas from the overture to the final chord, with lyrics and everything. He would just sing Magic Flute, you wouldn’t believe it!
To me he was absolute definition of Renaissance Man. He was of course Principal in the Bolshoi—he danced for Stalin, Chiang Kai-shek, he danced for Mao and for Fidel Castro. For all the dictators, for Kings, Queens and Presidents.
When I started playing for Krammy he would’ve been 63 or 64, he was still doing double tours, demonstrating for Advanced Men. He was doing double tours! He retained a physical shape almost as though he were almost made of iron. He stopped doing tours maybe after 70, because he said, basically my legs are fine, but I kind of worry about my back. He lived on the 38th floor of Manhattan Plaza, all this time he was walking up and down the stairs. He told me when he was 80 that he’d never taken the elevator before. He stopped using the stairs after he was 82 and took the elevator. For many years, sometimes he’d teach class in the morning, then have a break and he’d go home, then back to SAB for afternoon class. Up to three times, up and down in a single day!
A favorite Krammy saying? “Save your legs more than money.”
I miss his love, his jokes, his tremendous sense of humor. I think actually that’s why we bonded so well. And his heart. Probably the biggest heart I’ve ever seen in my life. The guy was the biggest heart actually, absolutely biggest.
The School of American Ballet