Obituary: Paula Hinton

Paula Hinton had two advantages which are rarely combined in a single dancer. She was not only fortunate enough to be born with a talent for drama and movement that made her one of ballet's finest actresses; she also married a successful choreographer, Walter Gore, who created many works for her.

She met Gore when both were dancers in Ballet Rambert. She had discovered ballet as a teenager in Liverpool when, acting in pantomime, she found herself admiring the ballet sections. She began ballet lessons locally, made her dance debut at 12 as Helen of Troy in the Old Vic Company's Tragedy of Faustus, at the Liverpool Playhouse, and joined Ballet Rambert in 1944.

She was cast in small roles in ballets by Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor and Frank Staff. But because of her psychological maturity she quickly progressed to bigger challenges such as the Queen of the Wilis in Giselle and the lead in Gore's Plaisance. Gore at the time was romantically attached to another dancer, Sally Gilmour, and when in 1948 he created Winter Night (during Rambert's Australian tour) for Gilmour, Hinton and himself, the ballet mirrored the real-life triangle of its interpreters.

The next year Gore choreographed Antonia, a melodrama with more than a passing resemblance to Roland Petit's Carmen. Hinton's performance in the title-role was perceived as sensational, with the tenseness of a tightly coiled spring.

Hinton and Gore married in 1950 and soon after left Rambert for a freelance existence. Hinton guested with various companies, often in ballets by Gore; while Gore also accepted a succession of posts as ballet master abroad, and on two occasions launched his own company in Britain - the Walter Gore Ballet (1953-55) and the London Ballet (1961-63).

It was an erratic life, but it did result in Hinton's dancing being widely viewed internationally. She appeared with a long list of companies: the glamorous Ballets des Champs-Elysees in Gore's La Damnee (1951), the National Ballet of Australia, the Frankfurt Ballet, the Norwegian National Ballet, the Harkness Ballet (USA), Ballet Rambert, and many others.

She also danced with Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) in 1951, standing in for an indisposed Alicia Markova in Giselle, a role Markova had transformed into something of a spiritual monument. For Hinton not only had a potent theatricality but also a remarkable physical facility that produced a floating lightness, high jump and exceptional speed. When she danced Fokine's 1914 version of The Golden Cockerel with the revived Original Ballet Russe, one critic wrote: "She made the cockerel inhuman, cold, avian, with that underlying cruelty which only a bird who pecks a king to death could have. Her variation in the first scene had the hard precision of a pair of scissors."

Hinton and Gore (who died in 1979) actually loved animals with a passion, especially birds, perhaps because they had no children. They used to care for sick birds, and one visitor to their London home was startled to find it full of pigeons and their droppings. But they were also kindly towards their fellow dancers and devoted to each other. Hinton continued performing until 1976.

Nadine Meisner

Paula Hinton, ballet dancer: born Ilford, Essex 1 June 1924; married 1950 Walter Gore (died 1979); died Birkenhead, Cheshire 5 November 1996.

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