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Ballet Encyclopedia

David Blair

born: 1932

David Blair was born in 1932 in Yorkshire as David Butterfield and after seeing his sister's dance class he decided to take up dance. At the age of fourteen David received a scholarship from the Sadler's Wells Ballet School but upon his acceptance into the school he was told that he had to grow during his first term there or he would receive injections of growth-inducing hormones. Although he grew enough to satisfy the staff of the school David was still one of the shortest boys and as a result the school thought he would become a character dancer.

Upon joining the Sadler's Wells Ballet company at the age of fifteen David Butterfield changed his name to David Blair. Anton Dolin saw potential for great things in him and coached David Blair for his debut role in Nutcracker, Balanchine chose him as the lead for his ballet Trumpet Concerto when it was created on the company and John Cranko also offered him the principal role in Pineapple Pole, one of the most frequently performed of all British ballets. David Blair married another principal dancer of the company, Maryon Lane, and later had twin daughters.

David Blair moved to the Royal Ballet Covent Garden in 1953 and it didn't take long for him to start dancing lead roles in the classics. In 1958, David toured with the Royal Ballet to Melbourne, Australia, and performed Act II of Swan Lake with Lynn Seymour. Ashton choreographed his version of La Fille Mal Gardée for Blair and his partner Nadia Nerina in 1960. When Michael Somes, Margot Fonteyn's partner, was about to retire David must of thought he would be the one to replace him but luck was against him; Nureyev defected and arrived at the Royal Ballet just in time to take this position that Blair wanted. David Blair was one of those dancers that could pirouette practically forever. We can see him perform in two videos: Romeo and Juliet with the Royal Ballet as Mercutio and An Evening with the Royal Ballet in Act III of Sleeping Beauty as Margot Fonteyn's partner.

David stopped dancing much sooner than he thought he would but started to build quite a reputation for himself as a producer of the classics, especially in the United States. David Blair brought Swan Lake to American Ballet Theatre in 1967 with scenery by Oliver Smith and costumes by Freddy Wittop and this version became a standard reference point for American audiences. Mr. Blair choreographed and directed the filming of Giselle with American Ballet Theatre in 1969. His choreography for Giselle is said to be "possibly the best in the world" by the Saturday Review. He was about to become the Artistic Director of the Norwegian Ballet when he passed away suddenly at the age of 43.

There is now a David Blair Memorial Scholarship which entitles the winner to have expert tuition from the most prestigious dancers and teachers at the Ilkley Ballet Seminars.

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