Serge Lavoie

Elegant ballet dancer and master
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Handsome, tall and perfectly proportioned, Serge Lavoie fulfilled all the physical requirements of what the old classification system for ballet dancers called the danseur noble. The important qualities of a danseur noble being beauty of line and elegance of manner, Lavoie was ideally cast in roles such as Siegfried in Swan Lake and Florimund in The Sleeping Beauty.

Serge Paul Lavoie, ballet dancer, teacher and ballet master: born Lachine, Quebec 30 January 1963; twice married (one daughter); died Vidalia, Georgia 5 December 2004.

Handsome, tall and perfectly proportioned, Serge Lavoie fulfilled all the physical requirements of what the old classification system for ballet dancers called the danseur noble. The important qualities of a danseur noble being beauty of line and elegance of manner, Lavoie was ideally cast in roles such as Siegfried in Swan Lake and Florimund in The Sleeping Beauty.

He died suddenly of a massive heart attack while on tour with Columbia City Ballet, the Canadian company he had joined in 1996 as a dancer; he had retired earlier this year to become ballet master and teacher. Before that, he had long been a member of the National Ballet of Canada, one of the world's great companies, and had guested with many companies abroad, including London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) and Scottish Ballet in the 1980s.

Serge Lavoie was born in 1963 in Lachine, Quebec, and made his stage début aged eight in Swan Lake. The following year, he enrolled in the school of the National Ballet of Canada, graduating in 1981 to join the company the following year. Allying his good looks to a capable, rather than spectacular, technique, he was promoted to the position of principal dancer in 1988.

Besides Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty, he danced central roles in many other ballets: he was Albrecht in Giselle, Basilio in Don Quixote, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Prince Gremin in John Cranko's Onegin. (This last was captured on film.) When John Cranko mounted his popular The Taming of the Shrew on the National Ballet of Canada, he chose Lavoie to play the swaggering husband Petruchio. He appeared in many other company premieres: Glen Tetley's The Rite of Spring, Antony Tudor's The Leaves are Fading and George Balanchine's Divertimento No 15. And he danced in the world premieres of James Kudelka's The Actress, The Miraculous Mandarin and Pastorale.

In the 4th International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1981, Lavoie won first prize with Martine Lamy for the best partnership in the Junior Division and, in the 1st New York International Ballet Competition (1984), he won a silver medal. His appearances abroad included touring Italy with Rudolf Nureyev (who often worked with the National Ballet of Canada) as part of Nureyev and Friends in 1987.

Lavoie danced as a guest with companies such as the Berlin Opera Ballet, the ballet of La Scala, Milan, the Boston Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, as well as London Festival Ballet and Scottish Ballet. When Mikhail Baryshnikov staged his 1988 Swan Lake for American Ballet Theatre, he invited Lavoie to partner ABT's Cynthia Gregory for the New York premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House.

In 1996 he joined Columbia City Ballet as a guest artist, dancing main roles in, for example, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dracula, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty. He made his farewell performance this year as Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. After that, he concentrated on the teaching and coaching he had started some years before, working with the dancers of the company and the students of the Columbia Conservatory of Dance. He was the company's principal teacher and ballet master.

"While I have always admired his dancing," says William Starrett, Director of Columbia City Ballet, "I believe that Serge came into his own as a teacher and coach, sharing his remarkable gifts with students and professional dancers." Lavoie, he said possessed "an uncompromising eye, plain-spoken approach and unabashed love of the art form". He was also a regular teacher at the National Ballet of Canada, after being invited there by Karen Kain, one of his former stage partners.

Serge Lavoie married Columbia City Ballet's prima ballerina Mariclare Miranda, with whom he had danced The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet. Away from ballet, he was an accomplished artist and held a black belt in Taekwondo.

Nadine Meisner



Comments