Obituary: Kelvin Coe

Kelvin Coe, dancer, born Melbourne 18 September 1946, OBE 1980, Director Dancers Company Tour 1987, 1988, 1990, Teacher Australian Ballet 1986-92, died Melbourne 9 July 1992.

A MUCH-LOVED principal dancer with the Australian Ballet for over 20 years, and latterly a respected teacher, Kelvin Coe was one of the artists on whom the company's present high international reputation was founded. News of his death as a victim of Aids reached friends and colleagues in the company during their present 30th-anniversary season at the London Coliseum, where Maina Gielgud, director of the Australian Ballet, paid him warm tributes from the stage before dedicating Thursday night's performance to his memory.

The programme included Giselle, in which Coe had danced a memorably courteous and eloquent Albrecht - one of the leading roles that he performed in all of the full-length ballets in the company's repertory. To these he added a wide range of roles in shorter works by Frederick Ashton (Oberon in The Dream and Blue Boy in Les Patineurs), Glen Tetley (Gemini), John Butler (Threshold) and Graeme Murphy (Beyond Twelve, in which he was last seen in London at Covent Garden in 1988). Several roles created for him included works by Robert Helpmann (Sun Music, 1968), Ronald Hynd (The Merry Widow, 1975) and Igor Moiseyev (The Last Vision).

As a boy, Coe studied dance in Melbourne, and was just 16 when Dame Peggy van Praagh recruited him for the inaugural season of the Australian Ballet she was asked to form as a national company in 1962. While still a member of the corps de ballet he was cast by Rudolf Nureyev for a solo role in Nureyev's production of Raymonda, and was given principal status after only four years, the first member of the company to achieve this from the corps de ballet. From then on Coe's direct and clean-limbed style, very much that of an all-Australian boy, brought a distinction of manner to his growing variety of roles, from strong classical cavalier to contemporary virtuoso.

He first caught my eye when he danced a volatile and delightfully cheeky Basilio in Nureyev's version of Don Quixote that the Australians brought to London in 1973. In the same year Coe won the silver medal at the Moscow International Competition and began to spread his wings as a guest with other companies, including the Bolshoi Ballet. In 1974 he spent a season with London Festival Ballet where, in addition to leading roles in Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, he took great delight in recovering a childhood skill in tap-dancing as part of the title-role in Prodigal Son in Ragtime, choreographed by a fellow-Melbournian, Barry Moreland.

During this season the ballerinas he partnered included Maina Gielgud (in the John Taras ballet Piege de lumiere), Eva Evdokimova and Elisabetta Terabust, while on other occasions in Australia and elsewhere he also partnered Margot Fonteyn, Carla Fracci, Valentina Koslova and Galina Samsova, as well as the leading Australians Elaine Fifield, Marilyn Jones and Marilyn Rowe. I remember on these occasions Coe showing the skill and taste to know just when the support for the ballerina was most needed and when else he could claim the central focus for his own accomplishment.

Coe was appointed OBE in 1980, and in 1986 he began a full-time teaching appointment at the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne, where he took particular pleasure in passing on the fruits of his own experience to a further generation of dancers from that country, on several occasions directing tours by the Dancers' Company of graduating students. He would have been proud of the success gained by the Australian Ballet in London this time, and of the standards he helped to set under Maina Gielgud's direction.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month