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Carolyn George d’Amboise (1927–2009)
Former New York City Ballet soloist and Broadway dancer Carolyn George died in February. The Dallas-born dancer got her start in musicals because there were no professional ballet companies in the area. In 1946 George spent a summer at the School of American Ballet, two years before the founding of NYCB. A year later, she journeyed to the San Francisco Ballet School, where she also performed with the company.
Known for her elegant, witty style, George returned to New York in 1952, auditioned for NYCB, but danced in Broadway musicals until being invited to join the company on its major European tour. She later created roles in William Dollar’s Five Gifts (1953), Jerome Robbins’ Fanfare (1953), and, after being promoted to soloist in 1954, Todd Bolender’s Souvenirs (1955). She also danced in the 1954 revival of Balanchine’s On Your Toes. In 1956, she married NYCB star Jacques d’Amboise.
She retired from NYCB in 1959 and found her passion in photography. By the 1980s George was photographing for both NYCB and SAB, although her work included non-dance subjects as well.
George is survived by her husband and their four children, who include choreographer Christopher (formerly of NYCB) and Broadway leading lady Charlotte. —Kathleen McGuire
Nora Kovach (1931–2009)
A glamorous star who once refused to abandon a sinking ocean liner without first applying lipstick, Nora Kovach trained at the Hungarian Royal Opera Ballet school. A spontaneous and charismatic performer, Kovach traveled to Leningrad with her teenage sweetheart and dancing partner, Istvan Rabovsky. There she became a favorite of the pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova, and the couple performed with the Kirov Ballet. In Budapest she worked with Soviet ballet masters Asaf Messerer, Rostislav Zakharov, and Vasily Vainonen.
During the Cold War, in 1953, Kovach and Rabovsky caused a sensation by leaving a performance in East Berlin and escaping to the West by subway. Although the couple was sometimes criticized for their bravura approach to showstoppers like Don Quixote, a fire-and-ice contrast in temperament made their partnership thrilling. In America, they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, in Las Vegas, and at Radio City Music Hall. They made three world tours, guested frequently, and in the 1960s formed the concert group Hungarian Ballet Bihari. —Robert Johnson
Marina Svetlova (1922–2009)
Former ballerina and teacher Marina Svetlova died in February. Born in Paris to Russian parents, Svetlova had her first role as a child in 1931 with Ida Rubinstein’s experimental troupe in Amphion, choreographed by Léonide Massine. While she was dancing with de Basil’s Original Ballet Russe (1939–1941), Balanchine choreographed a section of Balustrade for her. She joined Ballet Theatre (now ABT) in 1943, and became prima ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera for seven years, then at the New York City Opera for two. She toured with her own concert dance troupes from the 1940s to the late ’60s. Svetlova choreographed for opera companies across the U.S., was ballet director at the Southern Vermont Arts Center, director of Svetlova Dance Center, and professor and chair of the Ballet Department at Indiana University. She wrote for The New York Times, Dance Magazine, and others. —Brynn Wein Shiovitz
Hilary Ostlere (1927–2009)
Dance critic and longtime Dance Magazine contributor Hilary Ostlere died in January. She was born in Wales and danced professionally with Ballet Rambert before moving to the U.S. in 1960. She worked as a reporter, editor and critic for Dance Magazine, Time, Ballet Review, Pointe, The Westsider, and most recently The Financial Times of London.
Photo (top to bottom): © Radford Bascome, Courtesy NYCB Archive, Ballet Society Collection; DM Archives; John Lindquist © Harvard Theatre Collection, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow