Benjamin “Frank” Yezer passed away on June 22, 2022, after suffering from a variety of symptoms related to his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
He leaves behind his beloved wife of 27 years, Terri St. Arnauld, son Keith (Cairi), granddaughters, Katherine and Abigail, and Laura Liles.
He also leaves behind a legacy of artistic achievement as a dancer, bookbinder, photographer, and raconteur, as well as many friends, for whom he has been a beacon of light, comfort and wisdom in a constellation of beings.
Born in the Bronx borough of New York City on September 11, 1935, Benjamin Frank Yezer spent what he would characterize as a feckless youth tooling around the streets, constantly in, or about to get in, trouble. At around the age of 12 and just this side of juvenile delinquency, young Frank became hooked on dance. He started with tap, but soon began studying at the School of American Ballet, established by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine at its original Madison Avenue location. Among his teachers were Pierre Vladimiroff, Anatole Vilzak, Maria Swoboda, Yura Lazowski and Frederic Franklin.
By 1958, Frank was dancing with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo [archives.nypl.org -- Records of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; https://archives.nypl.org/dan/19695], sometimes under the name Franklin Yezer, touring throughout the United States, including at least one stop at Austin’s Palmer Auditorium (now the Palmer Events Center). His soloist work included Le Beau Danube, Graduation Ball, Ballet Imperial, Nutcracker, Gaité Parisienne, Scheherazade, Swan Lake, Raymonda and others. During that time, he accepted an invitation to Puerto Rico to perform the principal role of Prince Charming and the soloist role of Bluebird in Sleeping Beauty. Frank then went to Radio City Music Hall where he understudied and stood in for Eugene Slavin in Bolero. Frank performed as a soloist for National Ballet of Washington, D.C., under Frederic Franklin, where his performance venues included the White House.
From 1965 to 1966 Frank joined the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in a series of “Ballet Evenings,” dancing such roles as Fokine’s Prince Igor, Alicia Alonzo’s setting for Les Sylphides, and Antony Tudor’s Concerning Oracles. [http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/scripts/cgiip.exe/WService=BibSpeed/srch3a4.r]
In 1966, Frank joined the National Ballet of Washington D.C. [National Ballet of Washington, D.C. - Wikipedia] as a soloist in such ballets as La Sylphide, Coppelia, Raymonda Pas de Dix, and Allegro Brillante. While with the National Ballet, he met his first wife, Texan and Principal Dancer, Anita Dyche. After the birth of their son, Keith, the couple moved to Houston where, in 1971, they started the Dyche-Yezer School of Ballet, training many dancers. Some became members of Houston Ballet or other professional dancers, some were visiting dancers from other companies, and some went on to become company directors, such as Tory Dobrin (Les Ballets Trockadero) and Toni Bravo (Diverse Space Dance Theatre).
An artist in all things to which he set his hand, in 1985, Frank moved to Austin to work as a book binder for the University of Texas’ Harry Hunt Ransom Center’s (HHRC/ HRC/Ransom Center) rare book and manuscript collections. He later became the Center’s Facility Manager, seeing it through a major renovation completed in 2001, and retiring from the University of Texas - Austin in 2005.
In late 1994, Frank began dating Austin transplant, Terri St.Arnauld. Theirs was a seminally Austin courtship; their very first date was to go dancing at The Broken Spoke. They were married at the Hancock Recreation Center surrounded by family and friends in the Spring of 1995. During their 27 years of marriage, they have shared a love of people, travel, food, and photography. Since the founding of their company, Platinum Portraits and Fine Art Photography in 2008, they have spent countless hours taking photographs, developing film, printing works in their darkroom, experimenting in various photographic hand-printing media and doing all this with dozens of photographic instruments. They have participated, both individually and together, in exhibits in Austin, around Texas, and in Europe.
Frank gave his final dance performance on the occasion of his 80th birthday, in an event organized by his dear friend, the dancer and choreographer, Sharon Marroquin, at the Tapestry Dance Company studios. Other performers were Terri St.Arnauld, in her ballet debut, and seasoned dancers, Sharon and Miguel Angel Marroquin. It was not critically reviewed, but the audience loved it.