Georgina Parkinson: Ballerina best known for her performance as La Garconne in Nijinska's 'Les Biches'

To those who saw her, Georgina Parkinson was unforgettable in the role of La Garçonne, the enigmatic, androgynous figure who drifts into Bronislava Nijinska's sly and witty modernist classic Les Biches. Nijinska (sister of Vaslav Nijinsky), who created her ballet of manners for Diaghilev, revived it in 1964 for the Royal Ballet. She spent hours patiently coaching Parkinson who, 30 years later, remembered that the ballet was technically hard for her, very stylised, and she didn't have "a burningly great technique".

But she was to incarnate Nijinska's vision perfectly: a chic and utterly inscrutable figure in a royal blue velvet tunic and gloves. She was like, as Nijinska had explained to her, an envelope, her exterior neatly folded to contain the information within.

La Garçonne was to be Parkinson's most famous role, representative of her focus on 20th-century ballets, although she did dance her share of the classics. She was, for example, Odette-Odile (Swan Lake), which she danced for her graduation, the deadly Myrtha Queen of the Wilis (Giselle) and the titular heroine of Raymonda. As for Bronislava Nijinsky, she would be an important personal inspiration later, when Parkinson too became a coach.

Parkinson's beginnings were not privileged, with a bookmaker as father who added to his various misfortunes by gambling. She was born in Brighton in August 1938. At her convent school she took weekly ballet classes and it was the nuns who, noting the beautiful curve of her feet, suggested that she study ballet seriously. After attending local ballet classes she was accepted into the Royal Ballet School and joined the Royal Ballet. She was promoted to soloist in 1959 and principal in 1962.

It was in the 1960s that her career took off and choreographers created roles on her. John Cranko, before leaving London for the Stuttgart Ballet, cast her as Chloe in his Daphnis and Chloe (1962). Kenneth MacMillan picked her for the plotless Symphony (1963) and for Romeo and Juliet (1965) where she was Rosaline (and where she would later dance the title role). She was one of the eerie, shape-bending trio of Frederick Ashton's Monotones 1 (1966) and Elgar's friend Winifred Norbury in his Enigma Variations (1968).

She and her husband, the photographer Roy Round, became close friends with MacMillan, who often turned to them for professional and moral support while he was director of the Berlin Opera Ballet. In the 1970s, when MacMillan returned to London to direct the Royal Ballet, she continued to create roles in his ballets, mature dramatic parts that used her tall fine-boned elegance. She was the Tsarina in the three-act version of Anastasia (1971), the gaoler's mistress in Manon (1974), and the Empress Elizabeth (Crown Prince Rudolf's mother) in Mayerling (1978).

Parkinson's first experience of teaching came when her friend Nora Kaye, wife of the film director Herbert Ross, asked her to substitute for MacMillan, who was unable to come and teach Mikhail Baryshnikov and Leslie Brown a Romeo and Juliet pas de deux for Ross's 1977 film The Turning Point. In 1978 Kaye called again to suggest that she take the job of ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre. Thrown into this new skill at the deep end – her first company class included all the big stars of American Ballet Theatre – she decided to give it a try for a year, subsequently agreeing to become a member of staff in 1980.

Her husband and son Tobias (now married to the Royal Ballet principal Leanne Benjamin) moved with her to New York. With time, Parkinson increasingly concentrated on coaching soloists and principals in their roles.

In this capacity she was always concerned to help dancers find their own dramatic interpretations. She also performed character parts with ABT: among others, the Stepmother in Agnes de Mille's Fall River Legend, Madam Larina in Onegin and the Queen in The Sleeping Beauty. Choreographers continued to create roles for her: Twyla Tharp, for example, made her Mrs Harriman in Everlast and Alexei Ratmansky chose her for the soldier's mother in On the Dnieper.

She had been coaching the actresses Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis for Darren Aronofsky's forthcoming film Black Swan, a thriller with a ballet context, when she was diagnosed with cancer. She died soon after.

Nadine Meisner



Georgina Parkinson, dancer and ballet mistress: born Brighton 20 August 1938; married Roy Round (one son); died Manhattan, New York 18 December 2009.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone