Obituary: Nicholas Beriosoff

Nicholas Beriosoff joined the Rene Blum Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo as a member of the corps de ballet in 1935 and fell under the influence of one of the century's greatest choreographers, Mikhail Fokine, who, noting his remarkable memory, put him to work as a repetiteur.

Beriosoff stayed with the troupe for more than a decade, during which time it suffered changes of management and eventually became known as Leonide Massine's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo.

Beriosoff's small stature precluded any rise to fame as a dancer; his style was demi- caractere - that of a character dancer - and he shone in cameos such as one of the waiters in Gaite Parisienne and the chauffeur in The New Yorker, both ballets by Massine. He made his mark after the Second World War as a ballet master who could reproduce the classics in some recognisable form. "To be a ballet master," he said, "one must be old, and know not only the steps of the ballet but the way the great artists interpreted them."

In New York during and after the war, he acquired an 11th floor apartment on Sixth Avenue which became known in the profession as "Ramshackle Inn". The abode of itinerant dancers, it was beset with cockroaches which dropped from the ceilings, the kitchen stove and cracks in the walls.

Nicholas Beriosoff was born in Kaunus, Lithuania, in 1906. He learned to dance at the National Theatre, Prague. Returning to Kaunus he performed with the local company and married a dancer, Doris Catana, who bore him a daughter Svetlana. Svetlana Beriosova studied with Anatole Vilzak and Ludmila Shollar in New York, and became one of the brightest jewels of the Royal Ballet during the Fifties and Sixties.

With a decade of corps de ballet work behind him, Beriosoff had acquired a large knowledge of the classical repertoire which he soon put to good use. After the war he became ballet master of Ballet International, Paris, and Metropolitan Ballet, London, from whence he hopped to La Scala, Milan. He never stayed long in one place but spent several periods with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Ceuvas and London's Festival Ballet for whom he produced Petrushka, The Nutcracker, Scheherazade, Prince Igor, among others.

Some of his stagings were run-of-the-mill and his Esmeralda (1954) was less than satisfactory. To top everything, the traditional goat which accompanies Esmeralda persisted in urinating on the ballerina's feet and legs at every appearance, and when the pools of water grew larger and larger it had to be eliminated. The ballet was eventually cut to a single pas de deux.

Beriosoff was never denigrated for his failures. His enthusiasm carried him through. Tough and down-to-earth, he was liked and revered by fellow dancers, and he never stayed long enough in one place to become stale; there were always contracts in the offing.

Beriosoff was thrifty and possessed a shrewd business sense. Having settled back in Europe, he acquired dwellings in London and Paris which he let to dancers when he was abroad.

In 1962 he became ballet master of the Wurttemberg State Opera, Stuttgart; two years later he was appointed director of the Finnish National Ballet in Helsinki where he produced The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Esmeralda and Le Sacre du prin-temps, a formidable list for one man to undertake in two seasons. He went on to direct the Zurich Ballet (1964- 71) and the San Carlo in Naples (1971-72), and in the late Seventies was appointed Head of Ballet at the University of Indiana, Bloomington. By this time Ramshackle Inn had been demolished and Beriosoff was a man of affluence.

When his memory began to wear thin, he continued to churn out his own versions of Ondine (music by Henze), 1965, Romeo and Juliet, 1966, and Cinderella (both with music by Prokofiev), 1967, as well as Fokine works such as Le Spectre de la rose, Le Coq d'or and L'Epreuve d'amour. Always in demand, he was willing to travel to the ends of the earth to produce for companies large or small, and by now his sphere of influence extended to Canada, South Africa and New York.

More recently he spent several seasons in Rome, where he produced a Fokine Festival evening which in 1988 was performed at the London Palladium by a French company, the Ballet-Theatre Francais de Nancy, with Rudolf Nureyev.

John Gregory

Nicholas Beriosoff, dancer, choreographer and ballet master: born Kaunus, Lithuania 16 May 1906; married Doris Catana (one daughter); died Zurich 18 February 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'