On the day before she suffered a fatal stroke, 97-year-old Katherine Fishback went to her namesake dance studio and spent three hours fitting dancers with shoes and helping in the office.
Fishback, who opened the Fishback Studio of the Dance in Albuquerque 68 years ago and so loved dance that she kept coming into the studio long after she turned operations over to her daughter, died March 19.
“I would say she has touched the life of tens of thousands of dancers,” daughter Kathie Anthony said.
A celebration of her life will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at The First United Methodist Church, 314 Lead Avenue SW.
She began dancing, mainly ballet and tap, at 8 when a doctor told her it would help her build strength. Though she lived in Michigan City, Ind., and then Madison, Wis., she took the train into Chicago with her sister for all-day lessons.
Fishback met her husband, Dr. Charles F. Fishback, while taking lessons at a studio where he taught dance.
After they moved to Albuquerque in 1941 – where he became one of the original doctors to form Lovelace Clinic – he was known as the “dancing doctor.” He taught advanced ballet, tap and acrobatics at her studio.
“The two would get dressed and go to the country club to dance at night,” her daughter said. “They just always loved dancing.”
In 1945, Katherine Fishback began offering dance classes at the Danfelser Concert Hall near Central and Broadway. The studio moved several times – it was housed on San Mateo and Central for 28 years – before moving to its current location on Eubank and Montgomery in 1986.
She continued teaching until she was 80.
Cissy King, who began dancing at the Fishback studio at age 2 1/2, went on to dance for more than 11 years on the “Lawrence Welk Show”.
“We always felt like we had such good technique and training at the studio,” she said. “Not only in dancing but in life.”
She recalled that students not only learned how to dance, but they learned poise, proper manners and grooming. Fishback had an elegant, but strict, style. Students couldn’t chew gum or wear jeans. King recalled being required to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork when she went to a dance competition with the Fishbacks.
Fishback would mark time clicking castanets together with her impeccably polished pink or red nails.
“If anyone was misbehaving, they’d get a few extra clicks,” King recalled.
She received a 50 year Life Achievement Award for her teaching career from Dance Masters of America. In 2001, Albuquerque’s City Council designated “Katherine Fishback Day” to honor her long service to the community.
She loved the color pink. At a dance recital at Popejoy Hall on May 4 and 5 to celebrate the studio’s 68th year, the men’s tap class will wear pink ties to honor her.
She is survived by her daughters and sons-in-law, Nancy and Bob Agnew and Kathie and Michael Anthony; her daughter-in-law Tricia Fishback; her sister-in-law Betty Williamson; grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
— This article appeared on page C3 of the Albuquerque Journal