Obituary: Dr Alice Roughton

Click to follow
The Independent Online
In her penetrating obituary of Alice Roughton [29 June], Teresa Deutsch omits to mention one notable activity of that very remarkable woman, writes John Gregory.

During the Second World War, Roughton befriended the German dancer Kurt Jooss, who before the war had been installed with his famous school and company, the Ballets Jooss, at Dartington Hall in Devon.

With the coming of war, Jooss's company was stranded while touring South America. Jooss, who had stayed in England, was interned on the Isle of Man. After his release he found Roughton, and with her help engineered the return of his stranded dancers by merchant ships and men-of-war. By 1943, with Roughton's influence, he was able to reform his newly assembled company in Cambridge, augmented by one or two English dancers. A remarkable feat.

Roughton's driving power established Jooss as a cultural entity in wartime Britain. Jooss and his family lived in Roughton's house. He shared closely her humanitarian beliefs.

During those Cambridge years he made a prophetic ballet Pandora's Box to music of the composer Roberto Gerhard. It was an allegory about the onset of scientific invention that infects the life of our planet. It was turgid, fragmented and the music was humdrum. It was not a success. In a lighter vein he created his commentary on 18th-century English county life, Company at the Manor, to music of Beethoven's Spring Sonata. It was captivating and charming.

Without Roughton's influence and invincible campaigning England would not have had the benefit of Jooss's artistic gifts and his unique company during that period of war-torn austerity and strife, 1943-45.