Maria Dare Dance History Collection
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Dance Masters & Ballerinas

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Michael Somes

(1917 - 1994) age 77
Rozanne’s:a Ballet House Memory of Somes
In the 1960’s I took a Master Class from Michael Somes.  It was a great class, but most remarkable to me was his chain smoking.  He began a cross floor demonstration with a cigarette in his hand.  It was half ashes.  He flew into the air in an extremely high jump.  When he landed, every ash was still intact on his cigarette.  How did he do that???
Michael Somes, born in Horsley, UK,  received the 1st boys scholarship awarded by the school of the Vic-Wells Ballet in 1934. (Vic-Wells became  Sadler's Wells Ballet, and in 1956, the Royal Ballet.)  Sir Fredrick Ashton choreographed about 30 diverse roles for Michael Somes  including. "Symphonic Variations," "Dante Sonata," "Cinderella," "Tiresias," "Daphnis and Chloe" and "Ondine."  Somes partnered Margot Fonteyn for several years.  Rudolph Nureyev defected from USSR in 1961.  That year Somes retired from performing classical ballet roles, but continued to perform character parts.  He served as an assistant director under Ashton from 1963 to 1970, and also helped supervise productions of Ashton works for the Joffrey Ballet in the 1970's.  Somes died in London 1994.

Dame Margot Fonteyn

(1919-1991) age 72
Fonteyn was THE NAME in Balet for  decades.  Born as Margaret Evelyn Hookham, in Reigate, England, she began ballet classes at age 4.  She then studied in China for 6 years, then at age 14, returned to study in London. at the Vic-Wells Ballet School. (evolved into the Royal Ballet).  In 1939, she was a Prima Ballerina, age 20.
Rozanne’s Ballet House Memory of Fonteyn.
Upon arrival for class, Maria Dare informed me that a private rehearsal in the studio was running overtime.  I was to go to the dressing room and wait.  Finally Maria issued the all clear.  I bounded toward the swinging door that opened into the studio. I gave the door a push, swinging it wide open, almost slapping Margot Fonteyn who was attempting to use the door to exit the studio. Neither of us said a word.  I was too dumfounded.  I never expected to see Margot Fonteyn up close, certainly not in my studio.  But there she stood just inches away, wearing leg warmers full of holes, and a slip top for a leotard.  Not a hair out of place. Still in shock, I saw but a flash of Nureyev as he exited through the office door.  Nureyev was the Top dancer on Maria Dare's list. It must have taken all here might to appear casual while he used The Ballet House for his rehearsals when performing in Portland.
Decades Later:
Finally, the fountain of youth ran dry. I recall the time when Fonteyn and Nureyev performed in Portland Oregon. Afterward, The Ballet House dressing room filled with critics.  Most complained that Dame Fonteyn was "Too Old" to be on the stage and needed to retire.  The Royal Ballet, film, Romeo and Juliet  was recorded during the later part of Fonteyn’s dancing career, when audiences were casting their votes for her retirement.  The film shows that Margot Fonteyn’s technique was still superb.  Her dancing remained beautiful.  The problem was, she just didn’t look like a 16 year old Juliet any more.  Margot danced her last performance in Nureyev's 1979 summer season at age 60.  Her last stage appearance was as The Queen in Sleeping Beauty, 1986, for the Birmingham Royal Ballet in Miami FL.  She then retired to Panama.  When her husband “died in 1989 Margot discovered that he had mortgaged their farm and she had to auction all her jewelry to pay for her own medical care...”  Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias died of cancer in Panama City, in 1991.
Slide Show:
Margot Fonteyn & Rudolf Nureyev
These Stills from
Royal Ballet’s film Romeo & Juliet
Fonteyn’s age shows in her neck,
not in her ability to dance.

Rudolf Nureyev

(1938 -1993) age 55
Nureyev was born in Irkutsk, Siberia.  As a child he loved to dance, and participated in Bashkir folk dancing when given a chance.  But, his early years coincided with WWII.  He began ballet classes at age 11, taking from local teachers.  According to Nureyev, “"I approach dancing from a different angle than those who begin dancing at 8 or 9. Those who have studied from the beginning never question anything."  His professional career was launched by being an extra at a local opera when he was 15.  He soon landed a job with the corps de ballet and toured with them in Moscow.  In 1955, aged 17, he entered the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, St. Petersburg, associated with Kirov Ballet Company (now Mariinsky).  He became Kirov Ballet’s principal in 1958.  In 1961, while on tour, he defected in Paris.  He was soon partnering Dame Margot Fonteyn with The Royal Ballet in London.  He remained the world’s #1 dancer for years.
Ballet House Memory:
After a private rehearsal at The Ballet House, Nureyev visited with Serge Dare.  Serge shared that he had seen Nijinsky and Balanchine (?) in class.  At the time, Nijinsky was toward the end of his career and the other just beginning.  Now Serge had seen Nureyev in a class.  Of the 3, Serge believed Nureyev was the best dancer.  To this, Nureyev showed great appreciation.
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Revised:  April 2022
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