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Obituary: Woytec Lowski

Woiciech Wiesidlowski (Woytec Lowski), dancer and ballet master: born Brzesc, Poland 11 October 1939; died Warsaw 24 November 1995.

Woytec Lowski was a Polish dancer who enjoyed a distinguished career with Maurice Bejart's Ballet of the 20th Century, Roland Petit's Ballet of Marseilles, and the Boston Ballet. A severe hip injury ended his dancing career when he was in his prime, but he used his musical gifts and knowledge of dance resourcefully to become a first-rate teacher and coach.

Lowski was born Woiciech Wiesidlowski in 1939, in Brzesc. He studied at the National School of Opera Ballet in Warsaw and was granted a scholarship to continue studies at the Leningrad Choreographic Academy. Returning to Poland he joined the National Ballet in Warsaw, where he soon became a soloist. However he was not content; he would have liked to have been an actor and felt the roles allotted to him were not giving full rein to his abilities.

In 1964 he competed in the first Varna International Ballet competition. Facing stiff opposition from Soviet artists he managed to acquire a silver medal, while gold medals went to Vladimir Vasiliev (only winner of the Grand Prix), Nikita Dolgushin and Serge Vikulov. Disillusioned by the Warsaw management's lack of interest and having become acquainted with the international scene in Varna, he made efforts to quit the Warsaw Ballet.

In 1966 he succeeded in getting free from Poland and arriving in Brussels, he joined Bejart's Ballet of the 20th Century. He stayed for five years with the company, establishing himself with a powerful rendering of Tybalt in Bejart's Romeo and Juliet. Bejart created a number of roles for him in his ballets Baudelaire, Le Cygne, Les Quatre Fils de Aymon and Lettera Amorosa.

Lowski toured extensively with Bejart's ballet; then, in 1971, he joined Roland Petit's Ballet de Marseilles. He stayed two seasons with them, creating roles in Mayakovsky and Pink Floyd. After appearing with the Cologne Opera Ballet in 1972 he joined the Boston Ballet in the United States, with whom he danced the title role in Balanchine's Prodigal Son. Taking leave of absence in 1976 he danced with the Ballet Internationale under Ben Stevenson's direction, in South Africa. Returning to Boston he took a leading role in Agnes de Mille's Fall River Legend. He performed a Hamlet choreographed by Lorenzo Monreal and appeared in the same choreographer's Carmina Burana.

It was during this time that he damaged his hip, which gradually became arthritic and put an end to his dancing days. Undaunted, he turned to teaching and once again in Europe he freelanced, assisting Rosella Hightower in Cannes, and in Italy. In 1982 he returned to the United States teaching at the School of American Ballet. His teaching was recognised as of a high order and he was in constant demand. In Europe he became ballet master of the Ballet of Flanders in Antwerp under the direction of Valeri Panov, with whom he helped to bring a discipline to the company.

During this period he coached a French boy, Yannick Bocquin, and a Belgian, Koen Onzia, for the Paris International Competition; both dancing Panov's brilliant choreographies were awarded respectively gold and silver medals.

In 1968 he came to England, when I saw him give a class at the Royal Ballet School. I was impressed by his musicality and sense of style, but some years later I watched him teaching the English National Ballet and found he had changed his method considerably. When I questioned him, he replied: "One must adapt to the director's requirements."

He spent the last years of his life with the English National Company serving under three successive artistic directors, Peter Schaufuss, Yvan Nagy and Derek Deane. When he became ill from an Aids-related illness, he tried to escape from himself, teaching for a while in Italy, thence returning to London and eventually to Warsaw.