The well-known ballet dancer, choreographer, and teacher, Fernando Schaffenburg, died in the early hours of March 6, 2009, at his home in Pueblo, Colorado, from the complications of a recent surgery. He would have been 84 years old, next month. Mr. Schaffenburg was born in Mexico City, D.F. on April 2, 1925, one of three brothers born into a family steeped in music and European culture. He trained for ballet in the late 1930s and early 1940s at the Mexican School of Dance, and became a _premier danseur_ of the Ballet of the City of Mexico. Mr. Schaffenburg came to the United States to join American Ballet Theater in NY City in the late 1940s, and did two American tours and one European tour with that company. He partnered many famous ballerinas of the time, including Nana Gollner, Alexandra Danilova, Maria Tallchief, Yvonne Chouteau, Moscelyne Larkin, and Nathalie Krassovska. Mr. Schaffenburg also worked with many renowned choreographers including Leonid Massine, Anthony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Agnes DeMille, and George Balanchine. In the early 1950s he left ballet for Broadway where he appeared in 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,'Paint Your Wagon,' and 'Arabian Nights.' He then returned to the ballet stage, joining Sergei Denham's New York based Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a soloist, and toured the United States. Shortly thereafter, he became the lead dancer in the original cast of the Broadway production 'My Fair Lady.' After leaving the production Mr. Schaffenburg moved to Texas to teach ballet in El Paso, Texas, in the late 1950s, and, from there moved to Dallas to teach with the celebrated Edith James School in the early 1960s. In 1964, Mr. Schaffenburg was invited to become head of the ballet division in the Theatre Arts Department under chairman, Walter R. Volbach, following the death of its first head, David Preston. He was Chairman of the Department until retiring in May of 1988. While at TCU Mr. Schaffenburg was a driving force in dance education on a national level, leaving an enduring legacy and reputation of excellence both on stage and in the class room. His tenure at TCU made the school one of the best training grounds in the nation for ballet and modern dance. In the early 1960s Mr. Schaffenburg was asked to direct the Ft. Worth Ballet Association, which eventually evolved into Texas Ballet Theatre. After retiring from TCU, he and his wife, ballerina Karen Pedersen Schaffenburg, moved to Pueblo, CO, where in 2000 they were invited to head the Sangre de Cristo School of Dance. Mr. Schaffenburg was a Renaissance man and a connoisseur, fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Italian. He possessed a prodigious literary and fine arts background, and was a first-rank choreographer. He is survived by his wife, Karen Pedersen Schaffenburg; his daughter, Ingrid of Los Angeles; his former wife, ballerina Nancy Benson Schaffenburg of Pittsburgh; two sons, Kurt Schaffenburg and his wife Patricia of Dallas and Carl Schaffenburg of Philadelphia; his older brother, Karl, a surgeon in Washington, D.C.; and hundreds of former students who perform and teach ballet throughout North America. Mr. Schaffenburg was a true _maître de ballet en chef_, of the old school in the same mold as the great teachers of the last century, Enrico Cecchetti and Agrippina Vaganova. He loved Romantic Ballet, especially the ballet 'Giselle.' All of us were privileged to have known him. The world of ballet has lost one of its great practitioners. We shall never see another like him, and he will be sorely missed. At his request there will be no viewing. Cremation, Montgomery & Steward Crematorium. Memorial service, 4 p.m. Sunday, March 8, 2009, in the Montgomery & Steward Chapel. Online condolences,

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  1. I was honored to have had the privilege of working with Fernando. His ability to transmit classical concepts not only about the Art yet also about life have remained with me and have influenced me in how I now train the next generation of dancers. Thank you.

  2. Fernando and Karen both impacted my life in ways that no one else could have. I have wonderful memories of you both. I will never forget the lessons on life and ballet that I learned from you. Thank you for all you have done. This is a saddening loss for all, and my heart and prayers are with you and your family.

  3. Fernando Schaffenburg *was* the essence of ballet to so many of his dancers and students. My thanks to him, my condolences to Karen and the family, and warm memories to the other dancers who were touched by his influence over the years.

    lisa (lee schaefer) poisso
    tcu ’85

  4. Dear Karen,

    I thought he would last forever. That was my first thought when I read Francisco’s e-mail. How often have I thought about all of us in the TCU ballet building, the center of which was Schaff’s office. It was a special time, a magic time, and one that can and will never be matched, anywhere. During the last 30 years here in Europe alot of people have gotten to know, through me, about our teacher Schaff.
    We are extremely lucky to have had him as our teacher. And we are extremely grateful that our great teacher had and still does have – you.

  5. America has lost a living monument and treasure with the passing of Fernando. He possessed sensibility, talent, creativity, and erudition, one of the last, great exponents of the received Western European Tradition. He was one of the bright stars of his generation. Without him there is less light to guide the way for those of us left behind. He was steeped in ballet, symphony, opera, and literature. He could discuss Petipa, Diaghilev, Fokine, Massine, and Balanchine, as well as Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton. With whom now can I speak of such matters? ‘Arrivederci carisimo.’�

  6. I’m so proud to have been a member of Schaff’s Fort Worth Ballet and to have been onstage with so many wonderful dancers that he trained. He was such a gifted teacher. My heart goes out to beautiful Karen and her family. Fond memories of my training under him and the friends I made there will live on for the rest of my life. Merde!

  7. I am saddened to learn of Mr. Schaffenberg’s passing, as a mutual friend, John W. Gaston, had told me so much about him I felt as if I knew him. John even forwarded to me part of an email Fernando sent about his native Mexico, and as Mr. Schaffenberg and I shared a love of that country, my hopes of eventually meeting up with him in the Federal District (where he hoped to retire) are now forever dashed. His lifelong accomplishments are admirable — breathtaking, really. He was a great artist and, I’m sure, a great person as well. Vaya con dios, Mr. S!

  8. MY sincere condolences to all of you…Fernando will always be a legend and a living legend in my life and career, who took the interest to help me find what I had as my own gifts….He will be very missed by many, but mostly by a young dance student who was taught to never give up and to never say can’t….God bless all of you to day and for all the days to come without him…We will all see him in our dreams….

    Pat George Mitchell

  9. Dear Karen,
    I pray God comforts you and Ingrid in your great loss with the knowledge that Schaff touched so many lives and lives on in the craft so many of us still practice in one way or another because of his influence and love for this beautiful art. This is my 25th year with my studio and I still share bits of Fernando’s wisdom with my students. I also remember his tender love for you and Ingrid the night I babysat Ingrid while you went to see the movie, Sophie’s Choice. I was so moved by the way the two of you wanted to hold your child and each other when you got home because you were so grateful to have each other.
    I am honored to have known such a talented and sweet man.
    Bay St. Louis, MS

  10. Karen,
    We are deeply sorry for your loss. Although words cannot begin to console you at this time, please know we are thinking of you and our prayers are with you and your family.
    The Ivans

  11. Karen, Ingrid, Kurt and Karl:
    I can’t begin to put into words the sadness that I feel knowing that I have lost a member of my family. The time that I spent as a “member” of the Schaffenburg family is so precious to me and something that will remain in my heart forever. You all took me into your lives and into your home and made my life richer for the experience. The influence Fernando had on my life is immense and ongoing. He shaped my life as a dancer, teacher and mentor. His presence is with me in every class I teach, in every ballet I choreograph and in every relationship I have with my students. My time at TCU and the Ft. Worth Ballet is one of the best of my life and you and Fernando are such a huge part of that. I know his spirit is strong and we who were fortunate enough to know him, will be forever connected through it. All my love….

    Scarlett O’Clara

  12. Dear Karen and Family,
    Wow Karen, my heart goes out to you. I can not put into words how amazing it was to have known and been taught by “Schaff”. Although, not a ballet major but a very enthusiastic “Modern” devotee under the superb direction of Jerry, Ellen, and Susan, Schaff loved having us modern girls in class. He called us gutsy and made us feel very welcome amongst the “Prima Ballerinas”. Schaff, thanks for the encouragement, tough classes, and love of dance that you so graciously shared with all of us.
    With deepest sympathy,
    Carolyn (Winston) Roller TCU 82′

  13. Dear Karen, Ingrid, Karl, and Kurt,
    There is a huge company of angels being coached by Fernando now! Can’t you just see them! What a blessing Fernando was in all our lives. What knowledge and wisdom he shared with us all . Wrapped up in such passion and love, he shared it all with us and helped us all
    become better dancers and human beings.
    His love for his family was immense and will continue with you forever! Thank you “Schaff”
    for all you gave to us and the joy in which you gave it!
    My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  14. I will never forget the first time I met Fernando. I was auditioning for a job and he and Karen took Me and Darra to dinner. Fernando was telling us about his ballet career and I was so star struck, My mouth was hanging open and Darra was laughing at me. Fernando was a wonderful man to work for. I will miss him terribly. The arts center won’t be the same without him.

  15. Wanted the family to know we share fond memories of knowing and working with Fernando at TCU. Doris was acting chair of Ballet Dept when Fernando came to help us at a very difficult time. Harold was technical director in Theatre and worked with him on sets. Our most sincere condolences.

  16. Dear Karen,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I send my sympathy to you and all the family. Fernando’s influence on me and my dance career has been tremendous. When teaching, I frequently refer to his training and push. He helped me grow as a person and a teacher, and I will always be indebted. His love for you was strong and undeniable. Hold tight to that knowledge.
    Evelyn Brown Johnson (Doody)

  17. Dear Karen,
    Fernando was truly one-of-a-kind and an inspiration to more than one generation of ballet dancers. Of all the things I learned at TCU, it was Fernando who taught me most about performing and being larger than life onstage. He also taught us all how to enjoy life off stage, as well. He will be missed by many. My heart goes out to you, Ingrid, Kurt, and Karl–please accept my condolences. With deepest sympathy, Sondra

  18. I came to the Ballet Dept as a sophomore in 1973 and never imagined I would get into the company. It was a dream come true. I remember being in awe of Fernando, the prima ballerinas and soloists of the company and the inspiration and encouragement he gave to me. And Karen was so warm and welcoming. He truly was an inspiration and greatly influenced my life as a dancer. He will be missed by so many.

  19. Dear Mr. Schaffenburg,I will not say good bye because you will be so ever present in my heart for the rest of my natural life. Thank you for taking me under your wing and teaching me the passion you held for dance. Thank you for allowing me to express myself with my choreography during my years at TCU and thank you for the friendship, advise, discipline, support and love you rendered me all of these 33 years. I am most fortunate that in my life time our paths crossed.

    “A donde ira veloz y fatigada…la golondrina que de aqui se va…recordare my patria y llorare.”

    Your son, Francisco

    Karen, Ingrid, Karl and Kurt my condolences and love to you.

  20. Dear Karen, We are so sorry for your loss, he was a man of enormous energy and talent. He inspired many male dancers including myself and will remembered always as a teacher who had passion and character. Do you remember the day Fransico Martinez came into pas de deux class dressed as Carmen Miranda in a tutu? Fernando (Mr. Shaffenburg) was about to bust a gut laughing!! He had a great sense of humor and a huge, generous heart. He will be greatly missed and you and your family will be in our prayers at this difficult time. May God bless you always. Love, Erich and Mary Ragna

  21. Karen, we are so sorry about your loss. There are never enough words to express. He touched on many lives and passed his inspiration to all. Your memories will always be with you. God Bless, Kay & Emily

  22. Dearest Karen,
    I am so sorry to hear of Fernando’s passing. There is a lifetime of memories that have stayed with me since I first started studying with him, starting in 1962. He has passed on his knowledge to a great many people, who love and have a passion for the arts. My condolences to you, Ingrid, Kurt, Karl and the rest of the family, during this time of grief.

  23. Karen,
    We are so sorry for your loss. Fernando was a delightful gentleman and will be sorely missed. It was an honor to have known him.

  24. A flashback of wonderful memories just went sailing by. Whether talking dogs, tennis or dance, the impact you had on my daughters will be life-long. Addie and Dorothy loved you so much. A piece of their hearts broke today when they heard the news. We miss you already….We love you Karen

    Lynn, Addie & Dorothy

  25. Fernando,

    You will be missed by all the lives you have touched with your passion for dance and the arts. I can see you dancing in the streets of heaven right now, showing off to all your old friends and seeing who can pull off the tougher combination of challenging jumps. You were a great friend of mine, and I hope that when I get to heaven, you can finally teach me how to land that double tour!

  26. Schaffenburg Family,
    I am very sorry to hear of your loss. I’ll never forget the red convertible or the time Schaff and Karen would spend with students to help shape careers and ultimately our lives. My very best to your family,
    Peyton Foster
    TCU ’82

  27. Dear Schaff,
    I was thinking of you today, as every other day, but I just got off rehearsal for Cinderella (playing one of the step sisters) and I was looking forward to getting home and making me a Manhattan to unwind, but, alas…you never shared your recipe with me so I am at a loss. I’ll make one anyway and toast to your memory and think of the times you, Karen and I had your Manhattans either in Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Pueblo. Missing you…still.

  28. Dear Karen and Family,

    I always treasured the moments I had at TCU’s prep program back in the 70s, taking class from Schaff, and later rehearsing under his direction as a dance major at TCU, etc. The dance world has lost a wonderful, talented, inspiring, and powerful dancer/teacher/ and friend, but he will never be forgotten! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!!!

    You will be missed Schaf!

    Love and care always,

    Lisa Racina

  29. Dear Karen: I am very sad to hear about Fernando. More then being a very fine teacher he also built an outstanding program at TCU that left a lasting imprint on the art from he loved so much. I learned much in the 5 years I studied with him. Even though I have not seen or spoken to him in more then 30 years I thank him for helping me discover my life in Ballet.

  30. Dear Karen, Karl, Kurt and Ingrid,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you through this sad time. May you cherish the memories you have and take great joy in knowing that Schaff influenced and impacted so many lives with his love of dance. May God bless you all and help you through these difficult days.

  31. Dear Karen,

    May you and Ingrid be with peace knowing so many lives had been touched and made better because of Fernando. Not only was he a great artistic, he was your husband and Ingrid’s father who loved you both in ways only you will know. My thoughts and prayers are with you both during this difficult time. Sincerely, Kathy Chamberlain

  32. Who can forget that very first class taken from Fernando Schaffenburg? I remember being scared to death and thinking “he’s so scary”. I wanted to stop taking his class and fast. Karen you told me that I needed to stay with it and keep taking his class. I continued and I found out that he was a teacher who wanted to push his students and make them work for the very best and nothing less. He wanted me to do well and work hard. I learned how to dance with excellence from him and Karen. He made me want to work hard and be the best I could. He always believed in me. What an amazing man and what a huge blessing he was and will continue to be. When I dance now I know that every plie’ , every tendu, every Pirouette, and every Balanc� are each a gift. A gift that Fernando shared with so many people. He will be greatly missed.

  33. Dear Karen,

    How fortunate we were to have known Fernando. You and he made such a wonderful team, sharing your love of dance.
    Marianne, Ken and Emma Wheatcroft-Pardue

  34. Dearest Karen and Ingrid,
    My deepest sympathies go out to you both for the loss of Fernando. He was a great mentor to me as I still hear his words come out of my mouth when I teach today. One of the funniest memories I have was his spontaneous demonstration of multiple pirouettes (always at least 4) and his glasses flying across the studio! And, with a perfect finish. My thoughts are with you and your family,
    Monica (Titus) Coulter, TCU ’84/’88

  35. Fernando will forever live in all our hearts….he will be sorely missed and we are better for having known him….Our sincere condolences…Buddy, Ingrid and Ariel Davis

  36. Karen and Ingrid,
    We were so sorry to hear of Fernando’s passing. Fernando was always so gracious and kind to us. He made us feel welcome when we first came to Fort Worth and TCU. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  37. To Schaff’s family & friends,
    What wonderful memories have filled all our lives through Fernando’s joy of life and love of the arts. The TCU and FWB family of dancers were part of my teen years as I attended summer workshops and relished in his character classes, went to many great performances and cast parties witnessing the joy and love after many hours of hard working dancers performing their gifts onstage. I remember Fernando setting a fun ballet on us in Longview one year… what a treat that was! Being a freshman at TCU ’77-78 helped shape my strength and character as a person and dancer, and later as a teacher and mentor. Now in my 29th year of teaching I stress to others “never say can’t” and “never say never”. Each teacher who touches our lives makes a difference. Fernando definitely touched many lives and will long be remembered by all his students.
    My deepest sympathy to Karen, his family and those closest to him.

  38. I was so sad to hear of Fernando’s passing. I have fond and wonderful memories of my time in his classes at TCU. He was a wonderful teacher who strived for each student to be the best they could be. He will truly be missed. 1974-1977-BFA in Ballet.

  39. Dearest Karen,
    Fernando was a dear, kind and excellent ballet teacher to Katie. His (and your) years of instruction were wonderful and shows in her jazz piano concerts and northern Indian classical dance concerts. Thank you for sharing him with the Pueblo community, we will miss his presence. Love and prayers, Donna Ackermann and Family

  40. Hello, dear Karen, sending you love and arms around you. So many years ago, so many memories.
    Fondly – Diane

  41. Karen
    I am so saddened to hear of Schaff’s passing. He touched so many people in so many ways. He will be missed by many. He taught me so much. I use his wisdom every day I teach. It is through our art of dance that he stays alive within all of us. My prayers and thoughts go to you and the rest of the family.

  42. Dear Karen,
    I am so sorry to hear of Fernando’s passing. He was nothing short of amazing and has left behind a tremendous legacy. My condolences to you and your family.

  43. Karen-
    We are so terribly sorry for your loss. We always enjoyed the Nutcracker and seeing the magic Fernando brought to it. The recitals we have now will no longer be the same but will be special because we know that he will always be watching the school dance. Our heart goes out to you and please know you will be in our thoughts and prayers.
    Miranda and Madilynn Vensor and family

  44. It was my good fortune to spend my senior year at TCU under Fernando’s direction.
    I send all the family my sincere condolences.

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