Obituary: Jack Spurgeon

MAY I add a few word to Tam Dalyell's very fine obituary of Jack Spurgeon (10 June)? writes John Gregory.

Jack was a friend of my wife's, and they were devoted students of the great Maryinsky professor of ballet Nicolai Legat, whose studio was in Baron's Court, west London. In those days every dancer of note went to Legat's class to acquire his impeccable style and technique.

Jack told me that during the difficult days between the wars he used to cycle from Winchmore Hill to Kensington to get to Legat's class and he lamented that he could not always afford to attend class every day. According to the school register for 1936-37:

Jack Spurgeon (Polish State Ballet) paid pounds 1 for 8 lessons, and on Saturdays he shared the fees from the pas de deux class at which he assisted (3/6d per pupil, less 3/6d for the pianist).

Jack was admired for his manly strength and his skilful partnering of ballerinas. He danced with my wife with the Trois Arts Ballet, a small mushroom company, and they were both rehearsing with the Anglo-Polish Ballet when in 1940 he was called up.

Jack was a dedicated dancer and the war was a bitter blow that robbed him of five of the best dancing years of his life; however, at the end of hostilities he returned in great form to spend his mature years as principal dancer with Mona Inglesby's International Ballet, a company privately financed, which did sterling work until its disbandment during the post-war years.

The loss of International Ballet threw Jack and his ballerina wife Joan Tucker into the musical theatre for a livelihood. Dancing in the revue, however, was not what they wanted, so they made their own Academy of Ballet in Edinburgh.

The interesting point here is that Jack was mainly Russian-trained, and his wife was Royal- Academy-trained. At that time the two schools were poles apart. I asked Joan how they managed to synchronise their different teaching approaches. Her answer was realistic. A Russian teacher could not make a living in Britain without accreditation from the RAD. She had that certification with honours which spelled financial success, whereas Jack had no certification; artistically they managed to compromise - no mean feat.

Their success with their Academy of Ballet was achieved without official recognition or any assistance from public subsidy. Mr Dalyell's obituary is a shining tribute to a life of dedication and one may only regret that such an appreciation was not given while the artist was alive.