Obituary: Toni Carrion

Director of Village Dance Arts, dancer, loving mentor

Surrounded by loving family and friends, Toni Carrión succumbed to chronic lymphocytic leukemia on March 2, 2017. She was 76.

Antonietta (“Toni”) Carrión was born in El Paso, Texas on February 28, 1941 and moved to Claremont in 1944 where she pursued her love of dance for over half a century. Toni began her training with Harriet DeRea in the Los Angeles area and continued her studies with Wilson Morelli, Robert Joffrey, Igor Swetzoff and Yvonne Cusack. Her dance training was completed under the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) in London, and she was a registered teacher of the RAD for over 30 years.  

After dancing professionally with The Morelli Ballet and Ballet Concierto de Mexico, Toni founded Village Dance Arts in Claremont, California in 1969. Toni taught hundreds of young dancers and created a space where all students, regardless of their limitations, have been free to pursue their passion for dance in all its forms, including classical ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip hop, ballroom, and dances from all over the world. She generously provided instruction for students with limited economic means as well as to those with physical and intellectual challenges. Toni was a beloved teacher who inspired generations of students who have gone on to have successful careers in dance and related fields; many of them considered Village Dance Arts their “second home.” In a tribute that exemplifies Toni’s work, one student stated: “You did not just train me in ballet, you trained me in life.” Another student refers to Toni as her “greatest mentor, most admired role model, an inspiring creative collaborator, a second mother, and a beloved kindred spirit.”

Toni directed yearly recitals based on a broad range of stories that included her original choreography. Performances included The Marriage of the Broom Stick and Rag Doll, Harlequin in Search of His Heart, The Banquet, The Snow Maiden, Tales of Alice and Other Such Nonsense, Scheherazade, Cinderella, Momotaro: Peach Boy, Pinocchio, and many others. With every performance, Toni’s masterful storytelling, boundless creativity, and superb artistic direction garnered sustained and enthusiastic applause. For all of those who performed in, assisted with, or watched Toni’s recitals from the audience, the experience was uniquely magical and memorable.

Toni is survived by her husband, Nestor Carrión, and her daughters Gabriela Carrión (Salvador Torres) and Karla Carrión Neff, and her two grandsons, Diego and Rocco.

A memorial service for Toni Carrión will be held on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 2 p.m. at Todd Memorial Chapel, located at 325 N. Indian Hill Blvd, Claremont.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to a Village Dance Arts Scholarship (111 Harvard Place, Claremont CA 91711) in her name or to City of Hope (


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