Memories of Phrosso
12 June 2013
Former students tell us how they have been inspired by Miss Pfister
Phrosso Pfister was very important in the life of the London College of Dance and Drama (LCDD). She was proficient in all aspects of dance and through teaching many dance genres at the College, she was able to get to know her students. We were, in a sense, her life. Amongst the many memories we have of Phrosso, one that we often mention is that she expected all LCDD students to attend ISTD Congress which was held for one whole week in the summer holidays, with each faculty featuring for a half or full day. We all remember Phrosso with her ‘nods of approval’ – or at times ‘disapproval’ if her students were not towing the line!
One of the founders of LCDD was Anita Heyworth, who preceded Phrosso as a Principal of the College. Phrosso was one of the earliest students and Anita Heyworth had a great influence on her life. Since college days we met up with Phrosso on numerous occasions – old students’ days, festivals, board meetings and congresses to name a few – and she was always so welcoming and supportive. Phrosso gave to us a life-long wealth of knowledge to pass on to future pupils. She will be remembered fondly by so many of us and greatly missed at all the LCDD and ISTD functions. She will surely be there in spirit!
Thank you, Phrosso, for all you gave us!
Sonia Bond & Juliet Locks
I first met Phrosso in 1966 as a young student at London College of Dance and Drama which was then at Hyde Park Corner. She had a powerful presence and authority poured from her. I was quaking in my character shoes at my very first National lesson, a subject which I had never taken before. She was an amazing teacher, explaining in precise detail everything in a quirky and memorable way. Her lectures on the History of Dance enthralled me, as her knowledge was unsurpassed on the origins of dance and how the famous dancing masters created dance and Ballet as we know it today. I can say with all honesty that I still remember practically everything she taught me, such was her delivery and style of teaching.
“Her knowledge was unsurpassed on the origins of dance and how the famous dancing masters created dance and Ballet as we know it today”
After leaving the college, I joined the Dance Research group run by Nicola Gaines and Phrosso came to introduce the ‘setting the scene’ of the dances that we learnt that day. Phrosso’s astonishing knowledge of early dance and her detailed notes in her huge handwriting were brought to life by her lively and enthusiastic delivery, which was accompanied by a wealth of books and pictures to illustrate the costumes and styles of dance for that period.
Many of us who knew her always said she should write a book about the history of dance, and indeed, her life. Sadly, that was not to be and I can only treasure my notes from all the lectures I attended, along with the powerful memories of her kind face and passion for teaching. I am so fortunate to be one of the students she taught and my work in teaching dance today stems directly from her inspirational teaching at London College.
Some people and places can have a profound impact on you, shaping and influencing you as a person and your outlook on life. I consider myself, therefore, very privileged to have known and worked closely with Phrosso Pfister during my student years at London College of Dance and Drama.
I first met Miss Pfister at the London College audition in 1979 and still remember the warmth and respect she showed to everyone auditioning. This impression made such an impact that I selected LCDD based largely on this. I recall the summer of 1980, at the end of my first year, when the College was preparing to re-locate to Bedford. Working alongside Miss Pfister packing up the books in the library, we talked at length about some of the unique books within the collection and I was fascinated by her wealth of knowledge and willingness to share it. Nothing was ever too much trouble to those that wanted to learn.
Over that summer we relocated to 10 Linden Road, Bedford and some volunteers, myself included, offered to go back early to help. There were inevitable teething problems and lack of studio facilities which must have put Miss Pfister and the staff under an enormous strain. However, these issues never came into the class with her which were always so well prepared and delivered. This attention to planning and focus has had a profound effect on me over the years – once in the classroom, you immerse yourself in your teaching, delivering the best education to your students, no matter what is happening around you.
In my final year, I was selected to be the Head Student. This position gave me the opportunity to have a unique relationship with Miss Pfister as we had regular private lunchtime meetings; the Queen and Prime Minister sessions spring to mind! We discussed all manner of diverse topics and, even now, I can picture her at her desk with her head tilted knowingly to one side with the calm wisdom that she always displayed. She knew her students very well, almost like the mother of a large extended family; she shared our joys and sadness personally. I will always remember the painful day when Miss Pfister had to tell us all that one of the students had been killed in a car accident. It evidently made a huge impact on her for months but she managed to motivate us to continue with her common sense and professionalism.
“She knew her students very well, almost like the mother of a large extended family; she shared our joys and sadness personally”
In my final year, like so many other students, I was inspired by Phrosso to follow my dreams. We were encouraged to develop our full potential as dancers and teachers. I realised that her style of teaching and working with children had struck a chord with me and for this inspiration I will always be indebted. Countless people have been touched by Phrosso in their lives and I for one feel proud to have been very close to her, albeit for a short time during my formative student years.
I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that Phrosso’s intense fascination with, and interest in, history together with her passion for dance were essential parts of her very being, perhaps only her Catholic faith being more important.
Phrosso’s interest and knowledge was not just restricted to the evolution of dance but to the history and development of many other art forms in Western European culture. Her knowledge spanned a wide time-scale, from the ancient Classical Greek civilization of the 5th Century BC to the 20th Century. In particular I recall her love of the visual arts that was reflected in a wonderful collection of postcards gathered over many years of travelling. Phrosso also had a keen interest in the theatre and in particular, the plays of Shakespeare.
Phrosso’s support for historical dance was evident in her work as a both Committee Member and Chair of the Historical Dance Branch, later to be re-named the Dance Research Committee. Phrosso’s support for the wide variety of dance styles represented by the ISTD was legendary and she will be greatly missed.