Paul Koverman Eulogies


For those of you who were unable to join us at Paul Koverman’s memorial service, or were moved by the kind words spoken, below you will find the eulogies that were delivered by Maxine Mahon, Judith Sharp, and Yvonne Montelius. All three were thoughtful, well spoken, and emotionally charged. It should become immediately clear to anyone who reads on just how important Paul was to all of us here at California Ballet.


Written by Maxine K. Mahon:


Love, Laughter, and Loyalty


California Ballet has had many artists grace our stage and our studios in the last 42

years. I remember and cherish them all – but Paul joins the ranks of the best of the best.

He appeared on our doorstep in 1978, about 32 years ago. His first performance was as a guest artist as Snow King in The Nutcracker. Then he and his young dancer/wife Laura joined the company as dancers.

He was eager, enthusiastic and had an immense love for our chosen art form. His capacity of wanting to please and join my small team of hopefuls was heartwarming and surprising to me. I don’t pretend to know what love is to everyone, but I do know that it’s feeling comfortable and safe with someone and having the willingness to trust. This love Paul and I shared over the years. I loved him sometimes like a friend, sometimes like a brother and sometimes like a son. He never stopped telling me he loved me too – even the last time I talked to him in April.

His contributions to California Ballet were a lot more than as a dancer. His interest in music, production, literature and all dance forms was present early, and I was thrilled when he accepted my offer to be Ballet Master in 1980.

I most appreciated him when we would laugh together about anything and everything. Victor Borge (Bore – guh) said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” The private laughs were the best and he could certainly find humor in everything. I can’t begin to mention the moments, such as when he limped off the stage with a broken foot; our numerous adventures such as our trip to Russia (such stories there); when he lived with Dean and me for a few years and burned a couple of videos on the toaster oven; etc.

Nothing shows a man’s character more than what he laughs at.

Personally, Paul and I were very close. He would even try and help me sew costumes on our living room floor. He would come to my office with crazy choreographic ideas and beautiful music. His loyalty to California Ballet and to me personally was strong. Loyalty can’t be manufactured, for it’s origins are in the human heart.

I was never alone in trying to put the best I could on the stage. Paul always believed in my vision (except when he didn’t think I could mount a full Sleeping Beauty. Later, he agreed, and together we got it done.) Paul’s loyalty was an unseen strength on many occasions….. such as the crazy idea of mounting a full length Dracula. Paul joined Chuck Bennett in pushing this company and pushing me too.

We were frequently all in the same boat – in a stormy sea!

Paul’s continued Love, Laughter and Loyalty kept me afloat and the 32 years were a real adventure.

Thank you Paul.

As a thought, close your eyes and picture this:

Marius Zirra, Chuck Bennett, Paul Koverman, Douglas Hevenor, Michael Cappara,

Jenn Canzoneri, Paul Giovinazio, Noel Baron, Ricardo Peralta all dancing, and choreographing, with a support team of Bob Mahon, Flora Jennings-Small, Diane Metzler and Karen Salzmann. All are organizing a full performance for God and the Angels.


Written by Judith Sharp:


When I thought about what to say about Paul, I had some conflicting memories.

For one, his inability to work technical things was astounding, given his quick mind and great intelligence. — He’d often say "you know I don’t know how to work these things."  I learned to never loan Paul a teaching CD. It would end up in the bottom of his bag without a case and be scratched.

Then there was his use of time: He could work for hours – or rather make YOU work for hours… sometimes on just a few things, breaking it down to the smallest detail until there was no way you would not know what was correct for that moment.

–On the other hand, he could accomplish a TON with just a few words. He was a genius at giving ONE CORRECTION in ONE rehearsal and making a huge change that affected the dancer’s entire performance. This after I’d worked with the corps for hours or even days! He never ceased to amaze me in that regard. I learned so much from him, yet he was always humble about it. He seemed to admire others as much as we admired him.

He taught me things like, how to get a group to be more musical and LOOK musical. Musicality was a key issue to Paul. It was innate for him, as I believe it is for me, but expressing how to be so in others is a different issue.

He demanded technical clarity, pushing oneself to the maximum – EVERY TIME – yet

learning when to mark and knowing when that was okay. He taught you what marking

truly was and what WORKING truly was. (I’ll see nodding heads.)

Once Wayne Davis was observing his class and sighed a big sigh. When I asked him why, he said something like, "Paul says things the way I always want to say them, but can’t find the right words to do so. I wish I had that quality. I admire him so much for that."

Then there was his acting ability. He had an amazing way with "uneasy" actors. He knew how to get them to be comfortable with the process of presenting a character – from children to adults.

OKAY – another conflict… His "serious face" belied his incredibly funny sense of humor. Didn’t he often show up with a serious face, but the minute you spoke to him, or he to you, he’d be warm and friendly? He could make you laugh in a second too with his appreciate for the small things.

–I could see students look eagerly at him during class as he kept his serious face on while watching them. It looked certain he was displeased with them. But within moments they’d all be laughing as he presented them with an obviously silly correction… or imitated them with humor.

As I began organizing this event, I received emails from former students and dancers recounting how important Paul was to not only their dancing, but also their lives. He was important to this whole organization. About his work as Ballet Master, Maxine once said to me, "the company has never looked so good as when Paul is here." I’d like to think he lives on through us and his influence is still with us.

Another time Maxine said: "I know no one who did not like Paul." I have to agree.



Written by Yvonne Montelius:

Paulie (Paul Koverman)


Paul was a Triple Threat –a Dancer, Teacher, and Choreographer

He understood how to communicate with dancers. He demanded your best, and accepted your worst, as long as you were trying. Dancers always trusted him, and had faith to follow his instruction. His talents were amazing, and he was a force to be reckoned with.

Paul Teaching

Paul could teach all levels of dance, and dancers of all levels loved taking class from Paul. He was amazing with the kids, and took extra time in training them. He always treated them like tiny professional dancers, and it was a joy to watch the kids grow as artists under his tutelage. His classes were technically challenging, yet personally satisfying. No one questioned his teaching abilities or knowledge. Although, once in a while, we would have a guest artist take class who’s ego was maybe a little overinflated. It was always great fun when they had a bad attitude. Paul would then proceed to give that dancer steps that were harder than they had imagined or could do, and even better, he would then get up and show them how it was supposed to be done. They didn’t realize just how technically capable he was, but they never questioned him again. Most dancers over the years would find some of Paul’s steps so challenging, that they felt they were unable to do them. But, when that dancer trusted him enough to try what he was telling them to do, they always learned something from him. Part of becoming better as an artist is accepting all the knowledge you can absorb from the talent around you.

Paul Rehearsing

Paul was an incredible coach. He could make a pas de deux sparkle, polish a strong male solo, and finesse a beautiful tutu variation. Paul had a way to break everything down to such detail, and then build it back up stronger. He knew when to push, and when to be supportive. He would take you to the end of your limits, and then push you just a little bit further. Most dancers were always amazed because they would realize how much more capable they were after rehearsing with Paul. Paul was an amazing partner. I loved when he would stand in as my Cavalier during Nutcracker rehearsals. When Paul set a ballet for the company, he was very methodical. But once each section was set, the dancers knew every step, every count, and every detail. He could clean the corp like nobody’s business. We called him “The Cleaner”, and everyone knew what that meant – it meant you were going to work your tail off until that ballet was spotless. But, that detailed coaching and cleaning gave the dancers security and confidence on stage, and it gave the entire company a polished and professional look. I remember when the company performed Swan Lake in 2004. Two weeks before the ballet opened, the guest artists couple was scheduled to come down from Pacific Northwest Ballet. I remember sitting in this very room when Paul gave a speech to the company. He complimented everyone on the hard work they were doing, told everyone that they looked really good, but that it wasn’t good enough, and now it was time to step it up a notch. He demanded that our dancers match the level of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Even though that was shocking, it worked. The dancers worked even harder, brought their dancing to a new level, and the show was glorious.

Paul’s Music

Paul had an ear for music unlike anyone I’ve ever know. In class, he was able to put steps to music so precisely. The steps he created somehow equally matched the music, and the movement and the music made more sense together. Paul loved all types of music, and he especially loved playing his treasured Martin guitar that was passed down from his great, great grandpa. When Mark Lanham was in town, the two of them would often sit for hours playing guitar. I spoke with Mark Lanham today, and he really wished he could be here, but isn’t able to. They were great friends, and he asked me to pass along his love of Paul.

Ah, but I always remember the days when Paul would bring home a new piece of music from John Stubbs. I would think, Oh Gosh, I hope I’m going to like it, because that is all I would be hearing, day in and day out, for three months straight. Paul would work with the music for hours at a time. As the process evolved, I would start hearing the elements in the music that he heard, and that was always a fascinating experience. He was interested in the parts of the music that the ear didn’t normal go to. And that is how he would start to create his pieces. He would find little bits of magic and create around them.

Paul’s Choreography

What is good artwork? You can stand and look at it for hours. You may not like, but it evokes some sort of emotion in you, and it stays with you. Paul wasn’t afraid to choreograph pieces that were controversial. He left the pretty ballets to others. Controversy wasn’t his intention – he found beauty in movement, music, and emotion, and that is what created the magic in his ballets.

Even though his classical ballet abilities were exceptional, he choreographed contemporary ballets. Paul’s ballets were complicated, challenging, meaningful, and powerful. Dancers always hoped to be chosen to be in one his ballets. And for those that were lucky enough to be in one, it is an experience that they will always remember. A perfect example of Paul’s depth and complexity is the difference in his creations. All of his pieces were technically demanding, with complex and intricate movement. They were all different, but they all provoked different types of emotions from the audience, and they were all extremely memorable.

Judy, Denise and I spent hours going through Paul’s ballets to select excerpts for today, and it was difficult, as there were so many great moments to choose from. And as we were watching them, Denise and I remembered all the steps, what happening in rehearsals, the hard parts, the fun parts, and what the performance felt like, even years afterwards. They were all incredible experiences that stayed with us. This was Paul’s special skill – creating works that the audience and the dancers remember forever.

Paul At the Theater

Paul was always a great presence at the theater. He could quickly space the ballets, and he had an amazing eye for detail. His theater warm up classes were always perfect –not too hard, not too easy, and always got you on your leg for the show. Often, he helped the stagehands during difficult scenery transitions. He would coach the dancers during intermission, and solve any last minute choreography crises. I can still see Paul in the wings at the theater, dressed in his Drosselmeyer costume. All of us dancers would look for him, as his presence was always great comfort. He had so many traditions and things that we would all expect. He always visited the Snow Queen and King in the sleigh, and made sure the crew safely pulled us out onto stage. He would magically appear on stage right just before the Grand Pas, and spray the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier with his cologne, which he called “Magic Fairy Dust”. He was our rock, our support, and our inspiration. Just seeing him in the wings made all of the dancers dance better. He was loved by everyone.

Paul was a brilliant and passionate artist and person, and that is how I will always remember him.

By Yvonne Montelius – 6/12/2010



One Response to “Paul Koverman Eulogies”

  1. Cammi Amezcua Says:

    I danced with Noel Baron many years ago. When did she pass away and from what? I loved her to pieces.

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