A Champion of Dance & Dance Partner to Presidents: Remembering Corinne Conte
A native of Pittsfield, Mrs. Conte is perhaps best known as the wife of Congressman Silvio Conte, the widely popular Representative for the 1st Massachusetts Congressional District for over 30 years (1958-1990). Trained at St Luke’s School of Nursing in Pittsfield, she served in the Navy as a nurse in World War II, where she met Silvio while he was recuperating from an illness; the two married in 1947.
Over the coming decades, Mrs Conte mingled with every U.S. president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush, and many of the world’s leaders from the 1950s through the early 1990s. She famously danced with President Johnson at his inaugural ball, and served on President Bush’s special Committee on Mental Health in the late 1980s. In her younger years, she also held a private pilot’s license.
As the first President of Berkshire Civic Ballet’s original board of directors, Conte helped to expand the board, secure funds, and open doors for the fledgling company.
“The Berkshire Civic Ballet, in existence but three years, has already earned an enviable reputation as being one of the outstanding regional ballets in this part of the country,” wrote Conte in a 1972 fundraising appeal letter.
Working together with company Founder and Artistic Director Madeline Cantarella Culpo, they had indeed positioned the company positively within a very short time. In 1970, the company was chosen to perform in Toronto at the Northeast Regional Ballet Festival, and continued to attract attention around the country. Within the first 5 years, its board of directors had tripled in size, and the company began to mount large full length productions, such as its beloved Nutcracker, now preparing for its 45th consecutive season tour.
Conte served as President throughout the company’s first decade, rebranding as “Berkshire Ballet” along the way, and continued to serve as Honorary Chairperson to the board for many years after.
Following the death of her husband in 1991, Corinne Conte continued to be quite active in civic life and community work for a number of years. She passed away in 2009, in Mill Valley, California.
ABB is forever grateful to Mrs. Conte for her years of leadership and dedication to helping establish it as, in her words, “one of the outstanding regional ballets in this part of the country.”