Yvonne Mounsey, famed ballerina who graced the stage for the likes of George Balachine and Jerome Robbins turned inspirational teacher, died on Saturday. She was 93.
According to her daughter, Allegra Clegg, Mounsey died of cancer, the New York Times reported. Mounsey was the Artistic Director of Westside Ballet in California.
South African-born Mounsey had a career which spanned over eight decades, first beginning in 1937 in Britain at the Carl Rose Opera Company.
“I started dancing in South Africa, where I was born, when I was a child. And it wasn’t long before I went to England and started studying there and doing all my Royal Academy exams,” Mounsey said in an interview with Dance Channel TV in 2009 for her 90th birthday.
After some travel, she was eventually led to City Ballet in 1949, having already starred in Balanchine ‘s 1941 “Balustrade.” Mounsey danced for 10 years with New York City Ballet as a principal in performances like Balanchine’s “Serenade” as the Dark Angel, “Prodigal Son” and “The Four Temperaments.” Mounsey also danced solos in “La Valse,” “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker,” along with Robbins’ “The Cage,” “Fanfare” and “The Concert.”
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Mounsey retired from the stage in 1958, moving on to establish the Johannesburg City Ballet in her native South Africa, which later became the PACT Ballet. Then, Mounsey went back to the U.S. where she founded the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica. Mounsey continued to teach at Westside for over four decades, training some of the biggest names in ballet.
"It is with great sadness that Westside Ballet announces the death of Yvonne Mounsey, founder of Westside Ballet,” a statement posted on the website read. “With a ballet career encompassing more than eight decades, she touched the lives of thousands through her dancing, her choreography, her teaching, and the example she set of a life well-lived. We will miss her very much."