Louise Muse, a dance instructor who taught ballet to hundreds of Baltimore students for nearly five decades, died Friday at Keswick Multi-Care Center. She was 91.
Raised in Dundalk, Ms. Muse began teaching at Estelle Dennis' dance studio in the 1950s after spending several years as a student under the legendary instructor.
Ms. Muse taught girls from nearby St. Peter's school at the studio's original site in Towson as well as adults, according to Joan Shnipper, a former student. The studio moved to 13 W. Mount Vernon Place in 1966, where Ms. Shnipper said Ms. Muse kept teaching until she was 85.
Many of the day-to-day operations of the studio were handled by Ms. Muse, and she took over entirely after Ms. Dennis died in 1996. Ms. Muse became a semi-celebrity around town, her friends say.
"I remember being out with her at a store, and people would flock over to her, both students and parents," Ms. Shnipper, of Baltimore, said. "She never married and had children, so all these students were her children. She's an important part of Baltimore's dance history."
Ms. Muse came to Ms. Dennis' dance studio as a girl, and over the years, moved from student to partner in the school, according to a 2003 Sun profile about Ms. Muse. The two women traveled with their dance troupe all over, including a memorable trip to Europe on a decrepit freighter that began to sink. All the members of the troupe had to be transferred in lifeboats to another boat while the freighter was repaired.
Dancing afforded Ms. Muse the chance to see the world, but friends and family remember the teacher for her quirks as much as her ballet. She never told anyone exactly how old she was, said April Inloes Smith of Baltimore, another former student.
"And she encouraged us to do so," Ms. Smith added. "She said they will pigeonhole you if you do give your age."
Ms. Muse collected more than 100 Beanie Babies. For years, Ms. Muse slept on the floor in the studio, only returning to her home in Dundalk for the weekends. In 1996, Ms. Muse moved into the second-floor apartment above the studio, where she continued to sleep on the floor and regularly dined on onion sandwiches.
"She was always a little kid in a grown-up body. One time she showed us a vacuum cleaner cover she bought that looked like a duck in a raincoat. Whimsical things like that she really liked," Ms. Smith said.
In 2000, Ms. Muse was hit by a car while crossing Cathedral Street to mail a letter. In the profile published in The Sun, Ms. Muse said that once she was struck by the car, she saw the flags of a nearby hotel as she was in midair. But - crediting her ballet background - Ms. Muse said she was able to contort her body well enough that she only suffered a broken leg.
Shortly after, Ms. Muse was back in the studio teaching with a cast on her leg, said Larry Robinson of Baltimore, the instructor's nephew.
"We always said it was because she was in such good shape, and that anybody else at that age would have really caused a lot of damage," said Mr. Robinson.
A few years after the accident, Ms. Muse suffered a stroke, which required her to give up her apartment and move into Keswick.
"Her passion was ballet and teaching. She devoted her whole life to that," Ms. Shnipper said.
Ms. Muse was a member of St. Timothy's Lutheran Church in Baltimore.
A memorial service will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road, in Towson.
In addition to Mr. Robinson, Ms. Muse is survived by another nephew, Theodore "Rob" Robinson of Baltimore.