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Michael Somes

(1917—1994) ballet dancer and teacher


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(b Horsley, 28 Sept. 1917; d 19 Nov. 1994)

British dancer and ballet director. He studied with Espinosa and Bedells and in 1934 won the first male scholarship to Sadler's Wells School. In 1936 he joined Vic-Wells Ballet becoming principal in 1938. His career was disrupted by war service and injury, and this prevented him from realizing his early technical potential. But when Helpmann retired in 1949 he became the company's leading male dancer and also Fonteyn's partner. His commanding stage presence, coupled with his quiet strength and lyricism, made him an important role model for younger male dancers. He danced leading roles in all the classics and created roles in many ballets including Ashton's The Wanderer (1941), Symphonic Variations (1946), Scènes de Ballet and Cinderella (both 1948), Sylvia (1952), Homage to the Queen (1953), Birthday Offering (1956), and Ondine (1958); also in Massine's Clock Symphony (1948) and Cranko's Antigone (1959). He retired from dancing in 1961 though he continued to perform mime roles, creating Capulet in MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet (1965) and the title role in Layton's O.W. (1972). He was assistant director of Royal Ballet (1963–70) and principal repetiteur and teacher until 1984, particularly responsible for revivals of Ballets Russes works and the Ashton repertoire. He was married to the dancers Deirdre Dixon, Antoinette Sibley, and Wendy Ellis.

Subjects: Dance.


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