OBITUARY: Jurgen Schneider

Jurgen Schneider was a teacher of ballet with exceptional gifts of musicality, style and powerful projection. His authoritative personality and concentrated drive carried him successfully to participation with some of the world's leading companies. In recent years he was much in demand teaching and coaching at the American Ballet Theatre, New York, at the Hamburg Ballet and as guest teacher with the Royal Ballet in London.

Schneider was born in Berlin in 1936. His first dancing lessons were in the style of Mary Wigman - a modern - but he later studied classical ballet in a government school. His first professional engagement was with the Weimar Ballet, from which he progressed to the Komisch Oper, Berlin. Although he was tall and well built his dancing career was not particularly notable, and from early days his analytical brain was focused on teaching.

When the Bolshoi Ballet made its first post-war appearance in East Berlin in 1958 he was bowled over by the sheer grandeur of the dancing. He lost no time in persuading the management of the Komisch Oper to give him a grant to study at the Bolshoi and GITIS in Moscow. He became greatly influenced by the famous teacher Nicolai Tarasov and after four years he received the Soviet Diploma for teaching; he went on to study for a further year at the Vaganova Choreographic Academy in Leningrad, where he was a classmate of Nureyev.

During this time he became acquainted with a remarkable young Japanese dancer, Hideo Fukagawa. In 1969 he persuaded Fukagawa to train with him and to take part in the Moscow Ballet competition. Arriving in Moscow three weeks before the contest Fukagawa worked slavishly with Schneider and the result was astonishing. With scarcely any professional experience Fukagawa walked away with second prize.

Schneider returned to the Komisch Oper taking Fukagawa with him, and enjoyed a rising career. Fukagawa was awarded the Nijinsky Prize in Paris and in 1970 Schneider prepared him to compete in Varna, where he was first among male dancers but was grudgingly awarded only a silver medal. The pocket-sized Japanese stayed on with Schneider at the Komisch Oper but his ambition was to dance with his fellow competitor Eva Evdokimova. The only trouble was that she was several inches too tall for him.

Schneider built his fame as a teacher on the success of Fukagawa; they became firm friends and their collaboration prospered. Schneider was well placed at the Komisch Oper, where he taught alongside the brilliant Olga Lepeshinskaya. They cultivated a well-selected group of dancers who performed novel and impressive choreographies by Tom Schilling, in the repertoire of Walter Felsenstein, a producer of genius. The company toured Egypt, Bulgaria and Finland with outstanding success. But the ambitious Schneider had set his sights on the West; his quality of life outside the theatre - he lived with his family in a tenement block in East Berlin - was a shabby existence.

From Helsinki Schneider defected, coming first to London with Fukagawa, who danced a sensational Blue Bird in Richard Buckle's Diaghilev Gala Evening at the Coliseum. The friends now parted company, Schneider to take up a teaching appointment with the Stuttgart Ballet while Fukagawa became an idol of Munich Ballet until injuries cut short his dancing days. After a year at Stuttgart, Schneider spent a season at the Munich Opera, made his way to the US and was welcomed with open arms by Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was artistic director of American Ballet Theatre.

For Baryshnikov, Schneider offered the diet of class-work that had developed his stature. Schneider became a very popular teacher who offered strength with style in the true Russian mould. From 1975 to 1991 he was continuously engaged in coaching and perfecting the technique of many of the stars of ABT, as well as appearing with the company in a number of mime and character roles including Lord Montague in Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet.

Schneider founded and directed a teacher workshop in Astoria, Queens, in 1989. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Western Michigan University in 1992. Recently he was guest teacher at the Royal Ballet. He also taught in Australia.

In New York he married Victoria Rockwell, who bore him a son. They moved this year to Miami Beach, Florida, where tragically he met his death from drowning.

Jurgen Schneider, dancer, teacher: born Berlin 2 May 1936; married Victoria Rockwell (one son); died Miami, Florida 15 August 1995.

Suggested Topics
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?