David Adams

Virile, bravura ballet dancer


David Adams, ballet dancer, choreographer and director: born Winnipeg, Manitoba 16 November 1928; OC 2004; married 1950 Lois Smith (one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1980 Meredith Wood (one daughter); died Stony Plain, Alberta 24 October 2007.

David Adams became Canada's first male dance star in an era when the notion of men in tights was still highly suspect, an achievement attributable to his unassailable virility, athleticism and masculine good looks. Although as a teenager he performed briefly in London in the late 1940s, it was with the National Ballet of Canada that Adams established his reputation as a virile, bravura classical dancer and outstandingly strong partner. Tall, possessed of natural poise, yet faintly aloof, Adams won the heart of many a ballet fan.

He was fortunate in his timing. When he returned to Canada from his first sojourn in England there were no fully professional companies to join. Adams had to piece together a career dancing and choreographing in musical theatre and revues. He and his young wife Lois Smith had already established a marketable partnership when the British dancer Celia Franca arrived in Canada in 1951 to establish the soi-disant "National" Ballet. The two had danced together in London with the Metropolitan Ballet and Franca urged Adams to move to Toronto to join her fledgling troupe.

He resisted until Franca also agreed, sight unseen, to hire Smith as well. Although she was trained in ballet, Smith's experience was limited to musical theatre, but Franca took her anyway. It proved to be a spectacularly smart decision. Smith soon emerged to become the National Ballet of Canada's prima ballerina and forged a partnership with Adams whose magical chemistry, according to veteran fans of the company, has never been surpassed. Long before ballet hit its popular "boom" era, Adams and Smith managed to captivate audiences across Canada and on tour throughout the United States. In 1956, they starred in the National Ballet's first television production, a Franca staging of Swan Lake.

Adams was a breathtakingly athletic partner – he later gained the nickname "forklift" – and a compelling dance-actor, equally adept in the classics and contemporary works. As a choreographer he also contributed several works to the National Ballet's repertoire, from classical showpieces in the grand manner to more experimental contemporary works with commissioned scores from Canadian composers.

Adams might have stayed with the National Ballet longer had it not been complications in his private life that saw him leave for England in 1961 with a fellow company dancer – not Lois Smith. He became a leading member of London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet) until 1969, appeared in pantomime at the Palladium and in a couple of Ken Russell television films before in 1970 joining the Royal Ballet where he made the transition from danseur noble to character dancer. He subsequently directed the company's touring offshoot, Ballet For All, until another romantic rupture occasioned his return to Canada in 1978.

Adams returned to the open prairie of his childhood, this time to its western extreme in Alberta. He worked briefly with then Edmonton-based Alberta Ballet, taught for many years at a local college and from 1994 until 1996 directed the semi-professional Edmonton Festival Ballet with which he made his last appearance as a character dancer.

By the time Adams returned to Canada the country's dance scene had matured and expanded. After so long abroad, Adams, who never lacked a healthy quotient of amour propre, found himself in many ways an outsider. His star had long faded and, increasingly plagued by a bad back and other ailments, Adams settled into a mildly cantankerous and professionally embittered old age. His spirits were buoyed, however, by his appointment in 2004 to the Order of Canada. It was long overdue national recognition of Adams' huge contribution to professional Canadian ballet in its earliest years. The National Ballet subsequently honoured him during a tour stop in Edmonton. Adams's widow says he died at peace with the world, "with no hard feelings".

Michael Crabb

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her in Latakia
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report