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
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

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker