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Merriem Lanova

Founder of Ballet Celeste Intl., S.F. College of Music and Theater Arts

Merriem Lanova Bischof, dancer with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and choreographer and founder of Ballet Celeste Intl. and the San Francisco College of Music and Theater Arts, died Jan. 20 of pneumonia in San Francisco at 82.

Born in San Diego to Eva Mills and Samuel James Crow, Lanova began her dance career in Hollywood at Universal Studios. She studied with Roselle Frey and choreographers David Lichine and Bronislava Nijinska.

During WWII, Lanova performed for the Allies, which inspired the Polish government-in-exile to grant her the title of Dame Grand Commander, Order of the Star of Cracow, Baroness.

She danced with the New York Ballet Intl. as well as Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, with which she performed for five seasons.

In 1947, Lanova married musician John Bischof Jr. Together the couple settled in San Francisco, where Lanova started working on her dream: opening an American conservatory of classical ballet.

In 1949, Lanova joined forces with Von Konsky Folk Ensemble, Ann Halpirn and Wellan Lathrop to found the Pacific Dance Theater, which later became the San Francisco Conservatory of Ballet and Theater Arts. By 1988, the conservatory became the San Francisco College of Music and Theater Arts with an expanded curriculum of state-approved courses.

Similarly in 1950, Lanova formed Ballet Celeste Intl. of San Francisco to train children in the discipline. The school expanded to include an academic curriculum in 1957 and remained an active conservatory for over 30 years.

in 1972 Lanova created the Theatre Ballet of San Francisco, which brought productions of the “Nutcracker” to small communities in the East Bay.

She continued to dance until she was confined to a wheelchair due to Parkinson’s disease and choreographed until 1998.

Lanova was predeceased by husband, John, in 1996, and she is survived by her brother, Ellis Crow.

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