Westside School of Ballet director Yvonne Mounsey, famous as one of the first New York City Ballet alumni to relocate to Southern California and help open doors for students at prestigious companies worldwide, has passed away at the age of 93.
Her eight decades in the dance industry began far from the US: “I started dancing in South Africa, where I was born, when I was a child. And it wasn’t long before I went to England and started studying there and doing all my Royal Academy exams,” Mounsey said in an interview with Dance Channel TV.
Mounsey was trained in England and also learned from top Russian choreographers in the mid-20th century. When she was asked by George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet, her technique evolved beyond simple mastery, according to Mounsey’s daughter, Allegra Clegg.
“The reviews of her when she danced ‘The Prodigal Son’ in New York City Ballet, yes it was done before, and people had danced it before her but she embodies that role, the sensuality of it, just the artistry,” Clegg said.
Mounsey founded her Westside Ballet in Santa Monica, California in 1967. Though her goal was to teach children and adults ballet, many of her dancers went on to careers in the field. Regardless, Mounsey expressed real pride and joy in all of her students.
“We’ve had many go become famous surgeons and doctors and artists and writers, it’s just amazing. And I think in part it’s the discipline,” Mounsey said.
She stayed active until three months ago. She died Saturday of complications from cancer at 93 years old.
Our condolences to the family of Yvonne Mounsey. You can watch a video detailing this inspiring and strong woman’s life below: