Santa Monica, California
Phone: (310) 828-2018
It is with great sadness that Westside Ballet marked the passing of Yvonne Mounsey, founding director of the Westside School of Ballet in September 2012. 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.
Yvonne Mounsey was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet during its formative years. She danced with the company from 1949 to 1958, originating roles in ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins that continue to be performed in the repertories of companies throughout the world. In 1950 she made her debut in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son (1929) as the Siren, the role for which she would most famously be remembered.
Robbins called upon Mounsey’s imposing height and commanding presence as the Queen in The Cage (1951). Also a comedienne, she danced the Wife in The Concert (1956). Robbins capitalized on her acrobatic qualities when choreographing her Harp solo in Fanfare (1953). She led the Pas de Neuf in Balanchine’s Swan Lake and the Fourth Waltz in his La Valse, both from 1951. When Balanchine choreographed his Nutcracker, in 1954, he featured Mounsey in the Spanish divertissement. She danced to acclaim as The Woman from His Past in Antony Tudor’s Lilac Garden (1936) and Brangaene in Frederick Ashton’s Picnic at Tintagel (1952).
Born on a farm outside Pretoria, South Africa, Yvonne studied the Royal Academy of Dancing method through the advanced level and further refined her technique in London as a student of the Russian émigré Igor Schwezoff. She auditioned successfully for Léonide Massine, entering the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1939. Following the outbreak of war she danced with the Original Ballet Russe in Australia and North America under the Russified name Irina Zarova. She danced featured roles in Michel Fokine’s Le Coq D’or (1914/1937), David Lichine’s Graduation Ball (1940) and Balanchine’s Balustrade (1941).
In 1959, Mounsey co-founded the Johannesburg City Ballet, which later became the PACT Ballet. She moved to Los Angeles in 1966 and established in 1967 what would become the Westside School of Ballet. Working closely with her associate director Rosemary Valaire, who died in 1999, for decades she inspired and developed thousands of dance lovers. The Westside School of Ballet counts among its alumni principal dancers with the New York City Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet, and members of the Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Bio by Emily Hite
We proudly honor the remarkable legacy of Rosemary Valaire, 1930-1999.
Ms. Valaire danced with England’s Royal Ballet for eight years. She was an advanced member of England’s Royal Academy of Dancing
and holder of the Solo Seal. Ms. Valaire was widely respected in the performing arts world for her faithful reconstructions of the classical ballets, including Les Sylphides, Coppelia, and Swan Lake.
In our production of The Sleeping Beauty, Westside Ballet uses the Petipa choregraphy as staged by Ms. Valaire. She had also staged The Sleeping Beauty for Pittsburgh Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Compania Nacional de Danza (Mexico City) and Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico. She coached Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Markarova, and other dancers of the American Ballet Theatre for the ABT Sleeping Beauty.