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Moira Shearer

(1926—2006) ballet dancer, actress, and writer


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(orig. Shearer-King; b Dunfermline, 17 Jan. 1926; d Oxford, 31 Jan. 2006)

British dancer and actor who became world famous after starring in Powell and Pressburger's film The Red Shoes. She began her training in N. Rhodesia and in England studied with Flora Fairbairn, then at the Legat School and Sadler's Wells Ballet School. She made her debut with International Ballet in 1941 then joined Sadler's Wells Ballet in the same year, becoming ballerina from 1944 to 1952. She created roles in several Ashton ballets including The Quest (1943), Symphonic Variations (1946), and Cinderella (1948) as well as in Helpmann's Miracle in the Gorbals (1944) and Massine's The Clock Symphony (1948). The polished brilliance of her style set her apart from the lyricism of her British contemporaries (when Balanchine mounted Ballet Imperial on Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1950 he preferred her to Fonteyn) and this may have hindered her career. But her stage career was also disrupted by her popular success at the age of 22 in The Red Shoes (1948), which was followed by other films including Tales of Hoffmann (1951), The Man Who Loved Redheads (1955), and Black Tights (1960). She guested with Ballets de Paris in 1950, with Sadler's Wells Ballet from 1952, and with London Festival Ballet in 1954 but increasingly concentrated on acting, for example playing Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Edinburgh Festival, 1954). She married author and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy.

Subjects: Dance.


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