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Obituaries

Herida MayBarbara Holden 1934 ?2015
Jacqui Pells writes: Barbara Holden (nee Tyler) grew up in Sea Point, Cape Town, where she received her classical ballet training from Eve Borland. She also received instruction in Greek, Spanish, Highland and Tap dancing from Jean Strapp, Elizabeth Coombes, Frances Harrison, Eunica Lindsay and Gita Marks.

In 1949 she became the Western Province (WP) Junior Tap Champion and the following year, won the Highland and Greek Championships. In 1951, after winning the W.P. Ballet Championships for the second year running, she travelled to London to audition for the Royal Ballet School at the request of the overseas adjudicator, Freda Grant. However, on being told that she was not the correct height required by the school at that time, Barbara continued her studies at Grandison College under Irene Clark, Vera Volkova and Madame Lehminski. It was at this time that she also took singing lessons with an Italian teacher in London. She then toured with Derek Salberg's repertory company as principal dancer and returned to South Africa in 1955 to marry and raise two children, Michael and Carolyn. Still retaining her interest in the stage, she acted in major roles with the Bergvliet Dramatic Society and danced, sang and acted in pantomimes as principal girl.

However it was only in 1969 that Barbara returned to the world of dance when she opened the 'Barbara Holden School of Dance' in Bergvliet, having to dance her RAD Advanced Teacher's Diploma in a steel corset because of a back injury! Once fully qualified, Barbara put her talent and dedication into developing a small studio into one of the most respected in the country. A hard task master and absolute perfectionist, she never accepted anything less than the best from each and every one of her students, with many of them going on to dance both locally and internationally. She had a keen sense of humour and despite her tough reputation, she was adored by her students and made a significant and enduring impact on their lives ?she was a tour de force.

Herida MayChristopher Kindo 1955 ?2015
Kindo started dancing at the age of nine. Straight after high school he joined the UCT Ballet School and studied for the three-year Performer's Diploma in ballet. As a dancer who was classified coloured, this was difficult, as it was illegal at the time.

After three years some white students got work immediately, with the Cape Performing Arts Board (or CAPAB) but Kindo did not. He wrote to the government in protest. At the same time he was offered a scholarship with the Boston Ballet Company. At first he hesitated as he wanted to be CAPAB's first coloured dancer, but when nine months passed without any definite or positive answer from the South African government, he decided to leave for the USA to join Boston Ballet. After only a year abroad he decided to return to Cape Town in 1980.

During his absence things had changed a little in SA ?theatres had been desegregated and CAPAB was now allowed to offer him a contract. At first he refused it and instead became a co-founder of Jazzart ?the first contemporary dance company in the country. This allowed him the opportunity to really start his career as a choreographer. He later accepted work with CAPAB.

Christopher won various awards throughout his career including the 1991 FNB Vita award for Best Male Dancer. He also served on various boards as a consultant, mentor and judge. Towards the end of his life he was doing work as a dance teacher and choreographer for Dance for All, an upliftment, which teaches dance to disadvantaged children in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and Nyanga in the Western Cape.

Last year when his cancer got worse, he had to stop teaching and moved back to his old childhood home in Simonstown. He passed away on 20th April and will be sadly missed but always remembered for being a dance icon and an inspiration.

Cecil Graham Jacobs writes: Born on 12th September 1955, Christopher attended St. Francis Primary and later Ocean View High School. His father, Harold, was most unhappy that his son chose to do ballet.

When I started teaching in Simonstown in 1962, Christopher was my first male student and I introduced him to the RAD syllabus which back then was known as Ballet in Education. Whilst classes were well attended [in those days I had 250 pupils], life was not so bright in the apartheid era. I wanted to showcase a production entitled My Dream, and had to apply to Pretoria for a permit to hire the Simonstown Town Hall as at the time it was designated for 'whites only'. After much red tape and seemingly endless problems we were given permission to perform there and the production was a great success.
Christopher progressed fantastically well and received a bursary to the UCT Ballet School. He was a talented, gifted and indeed creative dancer and received recognition for his many attributes. He will be sadly missed.

Herida MayHermione Ballinger
Norma Blakeway writes: After a short illness Hermione Ballinger, a Life member of the RAD, passed away in her 90th year. Port Elizabeth dance teachers can't quite believe that Hermie, as she was fondly known, won't be with us anymore. For as long as most of us can remember she has always been there ?as a dance teacher in her younger years, then as a pivotal part of the P.E. Dance Festival, and latterly, when she was unable to take such active roles, either sitting on the stairs backstage at the P.E. Opera House or watching performances from the auditorium.

Hermie began her dance teaching career many years ago in Northern Rhodesia, but moved back to Port Elizabeth to be with her family, and it wasn't long before she was totally involved in the theatrical world here.

She opened her own studio and taught Ballet, Tap, National and Ballroom. At the same time she was a sought-after choreographer for the various musicals that were staged in the city. It was during this time she met and married Bob, who passed away in 1980.

Hermie was a very enthusiastic teacher and her pupils regularly took part in RAD examinations and dance performances, but she will be best remembered as co-founder, with the late Jenny Abrahams, of the P.E. Dance Festival, which first took place in the early 80's and which has grown from strength to strength and now draws entries not only from Port Elizabeth but also from surrounding towns.

We're sad, Hermie, that you won't be here to celebrate your 90th birthday on 7thDecember. You were so looking forward to having a really good “birthday bash?and had already told many of us “I'm having a really big party and you're invited!? I'm sure we will, nevertheless, think of you on that day.

Herida MayChloë Bernadette Maartens (nee Thomas)
Althea Menchero Perez (sister) writes: Chloe decided from as little as 3 years that she would become a ballerina. When she started Class 1 she immediately took her mother to a room where children where having ballet lessons. That was the start of her passion for ballet.

Throughout her school years ballet came first and school work second. Never once did she consider dropping ballet when there was too much school work. It just wasn't a consideration! There were many late nights but her commitment never failed.

All the concerts, exams, travelling, practices for shows just heightened her enthusiasm for ballet. She started choreographing her own little dances from a very young age.

Her initial training was in the Cecchetti method but she changed to RAD when her family moved to the KZN South Coast and she continued her training with Angela Watkin. Chloe finished high school and worked with Angela for a number of years. She left for a short while to pursue other career opportunities, but when Angela became a RAD examiner she asked Chloe to take over the school. After numerous requests from the kids Chloe returned to the South Coast and opened the Chloe Thomas Academy of Dance.

She loved teaching and often told stories about the cute little things the children did ?without a doubt she had made the right career choice. She staged numerous studio productions at the Uvongo Hall and they were always packed to the brim.

Chloe married Wayne and they had two gorgeous boys; Colbey aged 6 and Cohen aged 3. Aside from the passion she had for her family and studio she also loved the piano, horses and animals.

She was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and went to dance with the stars almost to the day 3 years later. She fought bravely and never once stopped with her ballet academy and commitment to the children. Her sister, Althea and friend Michaela started a Facebook page for her fight and to assist with the cost of medical bills. This became a success as numerous fundraising initiatives were realized, including a Zumbathon (all purple - her favourite colour); raffles with great prizes donated by businesses and the general public in the South Coast. These fundraisers reflected the impact that Chloe had on the local community.

Right until the end Chloe did not want to go. She wanted to stay and be with her family. Her husband Wayne was with her every step of the way. She fought long and hard. We all believe that she is Jeté-ing through the stars, making everyone in heaven smile as she throws her head back and laughs that contagious laugh. She was one of a kind who lived her life doing what she loved.

Herida MayMary Clarke
David Jays writes: 'A friend to the entire dance world, she must know that the dance world is her friend.' So wrote Clement Crisp in Dance Gazette when his friend Mary Clarke was presented with the RAD's Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award in 1990. As a critic and editor, historian and unswerving supporter of dance, Mary Clarke ?who died, aged 91 on 20 March ?was held in immense affection by readers, dancers and colleagues.

Mary grew up in south London, and a love of ballet inspired by seeing Alicia Markova at the Streatham Hill Theatre led to a career in dance writing. She wrote many valuable books on ballet ?including the first authoritative histories of the Royal Ballet and Rambert ?and was dance critic of the Guardian for 17 years from 1977. But it was a remarkable six decades with Dancing Times (including 45 years as editor) that would stand as her most influential achievement. 'The magazine,' wrote Crisp, 'has been an exact reflection of Mary Clarke's own personality in its combination of dedication, good sense and reasoned judgement.' The magazine always gave prominence to the work of the RAD, recognising its role in setting standards and spreading them throughout the world. The Academy, in return, honoured her with the QEII Award.

Many artists have described what Mary's encouragement meant to them. She was also unfailingly generous to young writers. I am just one of many ?including Judith Mackrell, Alistair Macaulay, Zoë Anderson and Jon Gray, her successor at Dancing Times ?who were given their first opportunities by Mary. If your writing passed muster, you felt it must be pretty much alright.

Mary was terrific company. Her funeral and memorial gathering was a blessedly warm and merry occasion, as everyone had good stories to share. But we also acknowledged her decisive role in telling the story of 20th-century dance, both as it unfolded and in retrospect. As Jon Gray said in his impromptu funeral words, Mary was modest but she knew her worth.

Clement Crisp wrote both the citation for the QEII Award and an accompanying tribute in Dance Gazette. 'In Mary Clarke's writing,' he wrote, 'her concern for fine teaching and fine performance, and for fine understanding of the art, are constants across the years. These facts tell of Mary Clarke's own belief in dancing, which she has served in so many ways, so generously and so selflessly.'

Mary Clarke with a friend in 1967
Photo: GBL Wilson


 
 
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