Obituary: Laura Wilson
Tuesday 01 June 1999
She took the name "Olkhina", a corruption of her nickname "Orla", and appeared in over 14 ballets including, in 1919, the first performances of Leonide Massine's Boutique Fantasque, with decor by Andre Derain, and Le Tricorne, designed by a young Picasso.
It was while she was with the Diaghilev company that she absorbed the teaching of the great ballet master Enrico Cecchetti whose method forms the basis of what is now termed the English School of ballet. In 1920, she was engaged to choreograph and teach dancing at the Glastonbury Festival School by its founder, the composer and conductor Rutland Boughton.
Her performing career was not confined to ballet and when she was forced by ill-health to leave the Ballets Russes she appeared as an actress, as well as arranging the dances and movement, in many of Nigel Playfair's productions at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in the 1920s and 1930s. Her choreography also made it to the West End stage, in A.P. Herbert's play Tantivy Towers.
She had not given up performing as a dancer and in the 1930s she appeared with some of the Camargo Society ballets which gave the first British productions of abbreviated versions of works like Swan Lake and Giselle with Alicia Markova at the Savoy Theatre.
Wilson's importance to British ballet came from her teaching. She founded her school in Drayton Gardens, south-west London, some time before Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet, started teaching in the next road. The basis of Wilson's success as a teacher lay in her own experience of ballet and her knowledge of Cecchetti's teaching. She taught in her own studios and toured many countries passing on her teaching of classical ballet to children and professional dancers. It is partly as a result of her work that the Cecchetti method of ballet is now taught in so many countries.
She was one of the earliest members and an examiner of the Cecchetti Society, and received the Cecchetti Society gold medal in 1966.
Those who met Laura Wilson were struck by her modesty, which is perhaps why she is less well known than some of her contemporaries. She was independently minded and surprisingly erudite for one with little formal education. She saw through hangers-on and had little time for amateurs. Although in poor physical health for some time she was always entertaining company to her friends and gave me her last private lesson a week before her death.
She was married to the painter Eric Munro Agnew, by whom she had a son and a daughter.
Laura Emma Elizabeth Jenner Wilson, dancer, actress and ballet teacher: born Sydney, New South Wales 9 February 1901; married Eric Munro Agnew (one son, one daughter); died London 14 May 1999.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 3 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 4 Nicki Minaj finally releases predictable 'Anaconda' video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Calvin Harris named highest-paid DJ in the world ahead of David Guetta and Avicii
JK Rowling releases new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing Celestina Warbuck, the 'Singing Sorceress'
Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermeister and vodka
The funniest joke at Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Tim Vine wins for second time
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world'