He’s remembered as a talented choreographer of more than 60 works and as the creator of a dance company that toured the U.S. and several countries during its thriving years. Yet, many would be surprised to learn that Heinz Poll served in the German navy during World War II and danced with the National Ballet of Chile before founding the Ohio Ballet in Akron. Written in a candid voice with natural humor, Poll’s recently released memoir, A Time to Dance: The Life of Heinz Poll, was completed before his death in 2006. We spoke with longtime friend and editor Barbara Schubert about his intriguing story. Amanda Wilcosky
What do you think Poll would say was his proudest accomplishment? I think he would say that he’s the proudest of educating an audience. Because when he came to Akron — [Ohio Ballet] danced both in Akron and Cleveland — I think he was really pleased that the audience grew in sophistication. He thought he had as sophisticated an audience in Akron and Cleveland as anywhere.
You had a chance to see Poll instruct dancers with Ohio Ballet. What was that like? Oh, I used to love to watch him teach. He never sat down. He moved constantly through the room, adjusting sometimes just a finger or the way a person held his hand. He was constantly correcting and showing. He was well into his 60s and early 70s when he might walk into a room and lift a dancer to show how it should be done.
What do you find interesting about his story? I think maybe the most amazing thing is that he landed in Northeastern Ohio. He had a list of what he thought were the finest pieces ever done that could be done by a company the size of his, and he tried to get them all. We had a variety of dance that maybe wasn’t anywhere except New York.
A Time to Dance: The Life of Heinz Poll is available for $29.95 at amazon.com.