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

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines