Maria Pogee

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Maria Pogee
Born Elvira Maria Victoria Garcia
(1942-04-07) April 7, 1942 (age 73)
Santa Fe, Argentina
Occupation dancer, actress, choreographer
Years active 1958–Present
Spouse(s) Ruben Grinspanas (1966-1990) (until death)

Maria Pogee (sometimes credited as Maria Pohji;[1][2] born April 7, 1942) is an Argentine-American dancer, actress, choreographer and director. Pogee taught dance classes and workshops, including jazz classes, at the Nevada School of the Arts summer camp, Backstage Dance Studio,[3] and jazz workshops at the Liberace Center for professional dancers in Las Vegas Valley.[4][5]

In addition to her career in dance and theater, Pogee taught Hatha Yoga for several years as a protégé of Bikram Choudhury.

In 2009, she represented Argentina as an international judge on the reality television show Superstars of Dance on the NBC Network.[6]


Pogee was born Elvira Maria Victoria Garcia in Santa Fe, Argentina, to Carlos Victor García, a sergeant major in the Argentine army, and Elvira Paulina García, an elementary school teacher. In 1941, her father was transferred from Buenos Aires to the province of Santa Fe, where her family settled in the community of Cañada de Gomez.

In 1945, her parents and older brother, Carlos José Luis García, were transferred back to Buenos Aires, where her father worked as director of personnel for Buenos Aires City Hall, and later as Chief Personnel Officer of the Eva Perón Foundation.

Pogee's uncle, author José Constantino Barro, was the Minister of Industry and Commerce during the era of Juan Perón (1947–1952). His wife, Agueda G. de Barro, was a professor of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires and in 1951 was designated Inspector of the National Political Female Party branch by Eva Perón.

María was seven years old when she began her formal dance training at the Teatro Colón, which is ranked the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic.[7] During her training, she began participating as an extra in operas and ballets. Her first performance was in 1952 at the Teatro Colón, as one of the characters in the ballet: "Hansel and Gretel", choreographed by Jorge Tomin.[citation needed] As her career progressed, Pogee attended the National School of Dance where she studied dancing, piano, singing and many others stages of the performing arts. During her studies, Maria studied with Marcel Marceau circa 1975.[citation needed]

In December 1961, English producer Barry Ashton become her mentor, giving her a working visa.[citation needed] She was supposed to work in a French review Bonjour Paris at the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach. He wanted to change her name from María Victoria to something French, so Maria suggested using her nickname.[citation needed] Choreographer Larry Maldonado and Barry Ashton played with the phonetic sound and rhythm of Polli and Poyi to create the pseudonym: Marie Pohji. It was in 1974 that her name was legally changed to Maria Pogee.

In 1966, Pogee became assistant to producer/choreographer Hal Belfer on the motion picture The Bandit (later released as The Ride to Hangman’s Tree), at Universal Studios. In the same year she was assistant to mime and director Richmond Shepard and performed in "The Technique and Performance of Mime" at the Valley City Jewish Community Center’s Kesselman Auditorium, Van Nuys, California.

In 1971, Pogee was appointed by Line Renaud as the Ballet Mistress and Coordinator of "Love Inn," at the King's Castle Hotel in Lake Tahoe, California.[citation needed] In 1973, she was assistant to Bob Finkle, producer/director of Herculean Tasks at Burbank Studios. In 1974, she was assistant to producer/ choreographer Jerry Jackson for The Tony Orlando and Dawn TV series.[citation needed] She was also Jackson’s assistant, performer and Line Captain on "The Tony Orlando and Dawn Show", at Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Later she assisted Jerry Jackson for Charlie Henchis spectacular at the then exclusive "Casino Du Liban" in Beirut, Lebanon.

In 1974, she was called to Las Vegas, Nevada, to assist choreographer Nick Navarro at The Frontier Hotel for the "In Vogue" show starring Liliane Montevecchi.[citation needed] She assisted Navarro at the Desert Inn Hotel on the "Juliet Prowse" show.[citation needed]

In 1975, Maria Pogee was working as Assistant to Nick Navarro under the direction of Donn Arden for the new “Lido de Paris” show at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada and the show to be titled Merci Beaucoup.[8][9]

During this time, Pogee was also active on the international scene, choreographing, directing, and performing extensively for TV, theater, and cabarets all over the world in Mexico, Spain, the UK, and Ireland. During this time, she worked with stars such as Olga Breeskin, Los Chiripitifláuticos, Manoella, and the Brothers Castro, known in Spanish as Los Hermanos Castro and director Oscar Banegas.[citation needed]

Before long she was back in the USA collaborating on productions starring Shirley MacLaine and Juliet Prowse.[citation needed]

Another Legendary Producer, Frederic Apcar, contracted Pogee to direct and choreograph his “Las Vegas Show” for its European engagements and his Les Sizzle Production at Harrah’s Hotel, Reno, Nevada.[citation needed] Apcar engaged her again for his memorable ‘Bare Touch of Vegas’ show at the Marina Hotel, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas she staged a Magic Act for Kirby Van Burch’s appearance in Jubilee at Bally’s Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Intrigued by the opportunity to work in Africa, Pogee staged and choreographed the spectacular extravaganza ‘Stars!’[10][11] produced by Anthony Farmer,[12] featuring a cast of 40 dancers plus principals, specialty acts and incredible sets, in Sun City, Bophuthatswana, South Africa. Upon her return to the USA, she served as Direction and Production Consultant for renowned Spanish dancer, Luisa Triana in a performance of El Amor Brujo and Capriccio Espagnol, in homage to Garcia Lorca, accompanied by the Las Vegas Symphony Orchestra. Shortly afterwards, Ms. Pogee accepted an offer from the Walt Disney Company to be their Director and Show Consultant of Marketing, Entertainment and Special Events at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

An invitation to choreograph a tango ballet to the music of Astor Piazzolla for the Academy of Nevada Dance Theatre brought her back to Las Vegas. Dance critic, Hal De Becker wrote in Las Vegas CityLife Magazine that "Maria Pogee, one of Las Vegas best dancers in the ‘60s and 70s. Her well-danced, well-lit number for 12 girls may have been the high point of the concert. Her choreography ’Esencia de Tango’ possessed an almost architectural sense of balance, focus and symmetry besides being thoroughly entertaining. It belongs in the repertoire of a professional company.”

The University of Nevada Las Vegas also had her choreograph the Musical Comedy ‘The Mystery of Edwing Drood”. Anthony Del Valle wrote in Las Vegas CityLife Review Journal ”Quietly, magically, she not only does what the script demands with maximum grace and minimum fuss but makes one want to see more.”[13]

Around this time a new creative avenue was presented to Ms. Pogee: Choreographing and Directing Fashion and Trades Shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Las Vegas Dunes Hotel. Her innovative fashion productions for Paolo Altamura, Beconta ski clothing, Colmar USA, Sears Inc., Toyota Industry and Ellesse USA, to name just a few, were distinguished by the unique brilliance of her fashion movements, projection and sets, as well as the professional dancers and specialty acts she engaged. Her Fashion Productions were especially noted for their story themes, Spice and Glamour.

She returned to her origins in classical ballet as vice-president, artistic director and choreographer of the American Dance Company with Linda de Becker Shoemaker with a Board of Directors including, Cynthia Gregory, retired Prima Ballerina of American Ballet Theater; Desi Arnaz Jr. and his wife, and Nevada State Assemblyman J. Harry Mortenson, among others.

From 1976, María and her husband, Ruben Grinspanas, simultaneously owned and conducted “Ra-Ma Tours,” a highly successful tour operators company dedicated to International Tourism in United States which Maria operated until 2006. In recognition of his constant support, Ruben Grinspanas became vice president of the Las Vegas Reception Tour Operators Association.

In 1991, she began painting dry flowers, in particular roses, using watercolors and acrylics in an original system she called ‘Canvavita.' These paintings and poetry, which were composed by herself and her father, were exhibited at the offices of Cirque du Soleil located in Las Vegas, Nevada and are included in her book, “Petalos de amor y dolor” (“Petals of Love and Pain”).

Currently, Maria is President of Ma-Ra Inc. of Las Vegas, Nevada and continues to combine entrepreneurial business ventures with numerous artistic pursuits.

Early life[edit]

In 1958 Maria performed with Eber Lobato Dancers in a weekly television variety show with singer Andy Russell. She performed in a 1959 movie called Nuves de humo or Clouds of smoke (Buenos Aires, Argentina). Maria began travelling and performing with the Lobato Dancers at Theatre Sacoa, Mar del Plata and the Theatre Maipo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She performed with stars José Marrone, Juanita Martínez and Santiago Ayala "El Chucaro", among others. The ballet contracted her for seven months to perform in Bim-Bam-Bum in the company of shows at the Theater Opera, Santiago de Chile. They also worked at the Goyescas nightclub with Libertad Lamarque and La Chunga.

In April 1960 Maria performed on the US show The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, with the Eber Lobato Dancers and Nelida with guest stars: Lucho Gatica from Chile and Jonas Moura from Brazil. The Lobato Dancers were billed as the Argentina Folk Ballet. Also performing were Los Huasos Quincheros, the Marinho Sisters and the Felix Trio.

Maria continued to travel with the ballet, performing across the country at the: Washington, Seattle "International convention of Art". "Moulin Rouge" in Hollywood, at that time the biggest nightclub, restaurant and showroom. The show was produced by Frank Sennes, Sr. The ballet troupe was scheduled to open at the "El Rancho Vegas" in Las Vegas but instead they watched as flames engulfed the hotel.[14] As they continued to rehearse on the lawn at the back of the property, MCA Artists, LTD Agency quickly found them work at: Cal Neva Lodge, Lake Tahoe, Nevada with Joe E. Lewis and Bing Crosby's sons: Gary, Dennis and Phillip. From Lake Tahoe to Vegas, performing with Dean Martin at the Sands Hotel, Copa Room (July 13) "Greek Theatre", Hollywood, California with Rock Hudson and George Burns (August 10) "Caribe Hilton" hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico with Carmen Delia Dipini. Sands Hotel, in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Copa Room, performing with Dean Martin and later with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, collectively known as "The Clan" or the "Rat Pack". New York City at the Nightclub: "Chateau Madrid" 1961 "Monte Leone" hotel, New Orleans, New Year's Eve "Vapor Club", Hot Springs, Arkansas "Deauville Hotel", Miami Beach, Florida "Cork Club", Houston, Texas "Mapes Hotel", Reno, Nevada "Stardust Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, with The King Sisters, The DeCastro Sisters and Juan Garcia Esquivel, amongst others. In November 1961, Maria ended her contract with the "Lobato" dancers Co.


Broadway and musical theater[edit]

  • Cavalcade (1970)
  • Sweet Charity (1972)
  • Peter Pan (1979–80)[16]

Production shows & nightclub acts[edit]

  • Douville Hotel, Miami Beach, opening night, "Bonjour Paris", bringing a board Marie Pohji) Barry Ashton show. (December 22, 1961)
  • "A Night in Paradise", a Gracie Hansen-Barry Ashton production at the Seattle Washington World's fair (1962)
  • A new release as Marie Pohji introducing the Morris Lansburgh's Fabulous Flamingo Hotel, a Barry Ashton Productions Stars of the show Peggy Lee and Joe E. Lewis (1962)
  • Las Vegas 1st annual JAZZ Festival, Ballet in Jazz "The Wedding" conceived and directed by Barry Ashton and choreographed by Larry Maldonado. Two days with the greatest musicians as: Miss Pearl Bailey (Mistress of Ceremonies) Dizzy Gillespie, Lalo Schifrin, Roland Kirk, Benny Carter, Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich, Mel Tormé, Dave Brubeck. (1962)
  • Dunes Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, at the Arabian Room, debuted as singer "Never Mind the Noise in the Market", the production was choreograph by Ron Lewis, that was the opening number of the show for: Carol Channing, George Burns, Ann-Margret and Tony Bennett(1962)
  • Harrah's Hotel Lake Tahoe, Barry Ashton Production, working with Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Phyllis Diller, Harry Belafonte (1963)
  • "Larry Maldonado Dancers": A company of dancers and singers, with Jerry Jackson, Eddy Serra, Doug Rivera, Jackie Levy, Lelia Goldoni and Maria Pohji.
  • The dancers worked with many great performers: Eddie Fisher, Pearl Bailey, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas, Max Baer, (The Beverly HillBillies) Ted Lewis, Sophie Tucker, George Jessel, Louis Prima, Kelly Smith, and Sam Butera.(1963–1965)
  • "Vive Les Girl's, show. Melody land Theatre, Anaheim California and "Circle Star", Theatre in San Francisco Producer: Frederic Apcar (1966)
  • "Vive Les Girls", Dunes Hotel Las Vegas, Nevada, (1967–68)
  • Juliet Prowse, nightclub act - Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, Miami, Melodyland, Lake Tahoe (1968–70)
  • Sammy Davis, Jr., nightclub act - Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles (1970)
  • Sammy Davis, Jr., nightclub act - Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada (1971)
  • "Love In" Show at King Castle Hotel, Lake Tahoe, Nevada- as dancer, ballet mistress and Show coordinator, Producer: Line Renau (1971)
  • Blackstone Jr. Starring in "Hocus Pocus" Fremont Hotel - Las Vegas, Nevada Magical Mystical Show, Pogee as a lead dancer, performer and Line Captain (1972)
  • "Tony Orlando and Dawn" show, Riviera Hotel, dancer plus line captain (1973)
  • Shirley MacLaine, Night club Act - "If They Could See Me Now",– MGM Hotel, Las Vegas Nevada. Kentucky, Texas, New York. The company travels, dancing, singing and performing (1974–75)
  • Maria Pogee was contract with partner Nick Covacevich. Aka: Nick Navarro By Cirque du Soleil as a back-up artist for Augie and Margo Rodriguez, in the “Zumanity” show at the New York, New York Hotel. Las Vegas, Nevada. (May 2005-Dec. 2006).

Media - TV syndication[edit]

Pogee was a Gazzarri Dancers featuring the 1964-65 "Hollywood a Go-Go" dancers in KHJ-TV series with host Sam Riddle. Pogee appeared in several episodes, including:

  • Tommy Roe "Everybody & the Nitty Gritty"
  • Tommy Sands "The Statue"
  • Marian Montgomery "They Can’t Take That Away from Me"
  • Gazzarri Dancers a GO- GO!
  • The Knickerbockers "Lies"
  • Vogues "You are the one"
  • Bobby Fuller "Six-Gun Routine"
  • Marvin Gaye "Can I get a Witness"
  • The Byrd's "Set you free this time"
  • Sexy Dancers from Gazzarri's 1965
  • Nancy Sinatra "If he’d love me"
  • Interview: on Channel 13 Television. With Jaime Jacobson director and Producer of Pantalla Gigante. Buenos Aires, Argentina. Radio Splendid Interview with Jaime Jacobson. And broadcasting with journalist Guido Merico. Buenos Aires, Argentina (1965).
  • Bob Hope Special (1966)
  • Don Knotts Show (1966)
  • "Alice through the Looking Glass" (National Broadcasting Company) (1966)
  • Mr.Blackwell presents A Musical Spectacular, fashion with a beat. Starring Anna Maria Alberghetti, Mike Clifford. (Maria Pohji as Principal dancer) (1966)
  • "America or Bust" TV Special with Glenn Ford filmed around the USA (1970)
  • Bing Crosby Special (1970)
  • John Wayne - TV Special (1970)
  • "The Comedy Hour" (1971)
  • Saga of Sonora (Winter/Rosen Productions) (1972)
  • Maria Pogee - Guest Appearance. "En Noches de Gala", with the Castro Brothers

Channel 4) Mexico City (1972)



  1. ^ Maria Pohji at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Maria Pogee at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ 40 YEARS. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2014, from
  4. ^ Forrest, D. (1985, August 28). Las Vegas Review Journal.
  5. ^ Duke, F. (1976, May 26). Pete Barbutti guests on NBC-TV, park jazz. Las Vegas Review Journal, p. 14.
  6. ^ "Superstars of Dance". 
  7. ^ Lande, Nataniel; Lande, Andrew. "Top 10 Opera Houses". National Geographic. National Geographic Society. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Stardust hotel and casino proudly unveils merci beaucoup!. (1975, May 14). Las Vegas Review-Journal, p. 41.
  9. ^ Stardust hotel and casino proudly unveils merci beaucoup!. (1975). Las Vegas: A guide to what's happening now!, 9.
  10. ^ Minervini, R. (1983, November 24). She's tutti frutti in rehearsal tights. Rand Daily Mail, p. 6.
  11. ^ Baneshik, P. (1983, December 7). The Percy Baneshik Column. The Star TONIGHT!, p. 18.
  12. ^ Anthony Farmer's STARS!. (1983, November 24). The Star TONIGHT!, p. 7.
  13. ^ Valle, A. D. M is for Murder. CityLife, 38.
  14. ^ Tuttle, G. (1960, July 24). Hotel fire almost stands argentine dancers in l.v. Las Vegas Review-Journal, pp. 30-31.
  15. ^ "Wacky Taxi (1972)". Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  16. ^ Peter Pan
  17. ^ "Gazzarri Dancers" (1964-65 HOLLYWOOD A GO-GO)