OBITUARY: Iris Rowe

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Iris Rowe achieved youthful fame as both a classical and an acrobatic dancer. Together with Robert Quinault, she toured widely in Europe and America. Their most popular creation, La Poupee d'Arlequin, a charming dance interlude in which Harlequin, danced by Quinault, performs an acrobatic sketch with his doll (Iris Rowe), received acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rowe's career started under the British dance teacher Margaret Morris, who described her as "one of my first and best pupils". By the age of 12 Iris Rowe was taking leading roles in Morris's Children's Seasons in London, and touring to Liverpool and Manchester. In 1915, at the age of 14, she played Puck in Ben Greet's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Old Vic, and was entrusted by Morris with sole responsibility for the arrangement of the dances.

After the Second World War she joined C.B. Cochran, dancing in his revues at the London Palladium. It was here, in the revue of 1920, London, Paris and New York, that she met Robert Quinault of the Paris Opera Comique, who was making his debut in England, and to whose Harlequin she danced Columbine. The following year saw her only venture into film, when she played the leading lady in a British Screencraft Production directed by C.C. Calvert, entitled Roses in the Dust. She then rejoined Quinault, forming the partnership for which she was perhaps best known. She spent two years in America as leading dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies, but remained comparatively unknown in England. In 1930 she returned to England, posing to illustrate a series of articles on technique by Tamara Karsavina in the Dancing Times, and in another Cochran revue, understudying the Russian dancer Alice Nikitina.

The critic Arnold Haskell, in an article in the Dancing Times, considered that she eclipsed her Russian rival in technique, artistry and charm. "Here is an artist," he wrote, "who so far has had far less opportunity than she deserves . . . an English dancer, famous on the Continent, whose talent is only guessed at in England."

He went on to quote the verdict of the Russian critic Andre Levinson, who was never lavish in his praise: "She will be a big star - marvellous little feet, remarkably well placed, a magnificent impetus in all gyratory movements, steel muscles, childish grace and suppleness. Here then are rare things united in one small person."

This promise seems never to have been realised in full. Her career continued for a few more years, with appearances with such names as Serge Lifar, Anton Dolin and Stanislas Idzinowsky, after which she seems to have lost touch with the world of dance completely and permanently.

Rowe was also, from early youth, an accomplished artist, with a charming and original style. At the age of 10 she was awarded a Royal Drawing Society prize, and a number of her drawings were published in magazines and annuals in her early teens, with the encouragement of the publisher J.M. Dent. Later she designed costumes and illustrations for her dances and worked briefly for an art agency after leaving the theatre.

After her second marriage in 1939 she devoted herself to her family and to her garden, rarely mentioning her past.

Iris Caroline Rowe, dancer and artist: born London 10 October 1900; twice married (one daughter); died 6 January 1996.

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