History Is Lunch: Carolyn J. Brown & Carla Wall, “The Life of Thalia Mara”

Event Details

  • Date(s): Wed, May 31
  • Time: 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Other Information

Join MDAH on site at the Two Mississippi Museums at noon on Wednesday, May 31, for History Is Lunch (or watch the livestream) when Carolyn J. Brown and Carla Wall will present “The Life of Thalia Mara.”
As a girl Thalia Mara (1911–2003) studied with the renowned Russian ballet teacher Adolph Bolm, who recommended she go at age sixteen to Paris for further study. During a tour in Europe and South America, she met her partner in dance and life, Arthur Mahoney.
“The pair dazzled the world with their breathtaking performances during the 1930s and ’40s,” said Brown, author of the new University Press of Mississippi book To Dance, To Live: A Biography of Thalia Mara. “The two were named co-directors of Jacob’s Pillow in 1947, gracing the cover of Life magazine that year.” Two schools of dance opened by the pair in New York City closed due to lack of funding. But that led to the second phase of Mara’s career: reviving the Jackson Ballet Company and bringing the USA International Ballet Competition to Mississippi.
“Thalia Mara was recognized as a patron of the arts,” Brown said. “Her extraordinary fundraising and planning attracted international performers to the city in the 1980s and ’90s.”
Ravenna Tucker Wagnon, former principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, wrote that Brown’s book “tells the story of a woman’s courageous path to become a ballerina after first seeing Anna Pavlova perform, eventually transitioning into a respected teacher who emphasized the ‘total artist.’ Her mantra ‘to live is to dance’ is captured in the story of her life’s work, spanning from Chicago to New York, to Jackson, Mississippi. The legacy of her love and passion for ballet that she imparted to her students continues today, reaching countless dancers and nondancers alike, through one of her most recognized achievements: founding the USA International Ballet Competition, drawing thousands of ballet enthusiasts into Jackson every four years.”
Carolyn J. Brown is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. She earned her BA in English and history from Duke University, her MA and PhD in English, both from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Brown has taught at Elon University, Millsaps College, and UNC-Greensboro, and has taught at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School since 2017. She is author of The Artist’s Sketch: A Biography of Painter Kate Freeman Clark and the award-winning biographies A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty and Song of My Life: A Biography of Margaret Walker, and is co-editor of A de Grummond Primer: Highlights of the Children’s Literature Collection.
Carla Wall is a consultant in communications and public relations from Jackson, Mississippi. She has served on boards for theater, visual arts, ballet, and community organizations. Wall edited Art to Life: Welty and Theatre by art historian Patti Carr Black.
Copies of To Dance, To Live: A Biography of Thalia Mara will be for sale at the program.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state’s past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building at 222 North Street in Jackson and livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.