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Not dancing to death - Moira Shearer

Dancing to her death in The Story of Three Loves, (with a young James Mason 1953)

The idea of dying for art gained renewed strength in the years after the Second World War, almost as if artists wanted to be taken as seriously as warriors. Auburn-haired ballerina Moira Shearer danced to her death in several movies, but not in real life. For one thing, she had too strong a sense of humour.

She was a beautiful dancer, joining Sadler Wells at the age of sixteen and taking part in their wartime tours and London seasons. Frederick Ashton and Leonid Massine choreographed ballets for her.

In 1948, at the age of 21, she starred as Vicky in Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's famous film The Red Shoes. She became an international star, and her performance won her the heart of her future husband, Ludovic Kennedy, a reluctant movie-goer who fell in love watching her in the film.

They met at the Sadler Wells Old Vic ball. It's a charmingly improbable encounter -

Though they had not been formally introduced, Kennedy eventually plucked up courage to approach her. "I walked boldly up, gabbled my name and said, in a rush, 'Would you like to dance?' "

By the time they reached the dance floor, he was beginning to wish he was anywhere else: "I put one hand in hers and the other round her waist (Oh, boy!). Then she said, 'before we start, I must tell you something.' What could it be? 'I don't dance very well.' We set off, and within a step or two it was clear she couldn't [ballroom] dance for toffee." So began a courtship which ended in their marriage in 1950.

She danced a few more years, became an actress and writer (she wrote a biography of Balanchine) and happily raised four children. Year later she wryly abandoned her memoirs with the remark that no one could possibly be interested in them.

I would be.

Comments (1)

Mike Spilligan:

Many thanks for this posting.
Moira Shearer had to contend with the intense partisanship of balletomanes, many of whom were in the Fonteyn or Markova "camps", but it's really no surprise that she was chosen by P&P for The Red Shoes. Did you know that it was re-mastered (or whatever the technical term is) last year?
Like you I would have wished to have read her memoirs as though much has been written of that period, another viewpoint would have been interesting.

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