For ballerina Beryl Goldwyn, who died of cancer aged 91, there was something satisfying about starting her career on the stage of the Royal Opera House with Margot Fonteyn in 1946’s Sleeping Beauty, and to finish it with Sylvie Guillem in Don Quichotte in 1993-94.
In these ballets she played minor roles – a mouse entering with Carabosse’s coach and a Spaniard – but in between she was a ballerina in her own right, acclaimed for her portrayals of Giselle. Critic Peter Williams noted that in Giselle’s crazed scene, “it is possible to see the shiver of death pass through her arms at her fingertips”. When she played the spirit in Act II, “her supernatural and ethereal qualities bore a certain resemblance to [Alicia] Markova” and, like Yvette Chauviré, “she brings a bit of live Giselle to the novice Wili”.
The favorable comparison with these international stars was praise indeed and, although Goldwyn never achieved international status, Richard Buckle’s comments on the boredom of “going to Sadler’s Wells for an unknown Giselle [Goldwyn] then Flash! Bam! Alacazam! – one is overtaken and carried away breathlessly by the excitement of melodrama…” says a lot about his performances.
Goldwyn is typical of the dancers spotted by Marie Rambert, founder of Ballet Rambert, at the start of their career. Rambert offered them opportunities while intimidating and cajoling them into becoming a ballerina. It was a difficult and demanding life, as Rambert constantly “coached” his favorite stars, on trips, while preparing to go on stage and even after a performance, but it paid off. Also early in his career, Goldwyn was lucky to find a sympathetic partner in Alexander Bennett.
Initially, she made an impression in the revived chamber ballets for Ballet at Eight, Rambert’s last performances at the tiny Mercury Theater in Notting Hill Gate. These introduced Goldwyn to choreography by Walter Gore and Antony Tudor. In 1954 she danced every night in Act I of Giselle at the Stoll Theater in London, as curtain raiser for Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc at the Stake, and she toured with Rambert in Europe, and festivals at Jacob’s Pillow in the United States and at the Roman ruins of the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbeck, Lebanon.
On both occasions John Cranko choreographed for Rambert, he cast Goldwyn for the lead roles; the Lady in the Shade in Variations on a Theme (1955) and the Young Girl in Black in La Reja (1959). American choreographer Robert Joffrey was also taken by Goldwyn and cast her as Taglioni in his Pas de Déesses (1955). Goldwyn was, indeed, a ballerina who could capture the essence of romantic ballet.
But she also impressed in more modern works; it was said that in Movimientos, 1952, “she alone in the company seemed completely capable of mastering Michael Charnley’s peculiar modern technique”. In 1958, Goldwyn starred as the sensitive bride in Deryk Mendel’s experimental Platonic ballet Epithalame; critic Clive Barnes described her as “fresh, beautiful and radiant”.
Beryl was born in Pinner, Middlesex, the daughter of Louis Goldwyn, a Chartered Accountant from Australia, and his wife, Primrose (née Lewis). At the age of three, she responded so well to music on the radio that her mother enrolled her in the local dance school. She trained at Sadler’s Wells school and, while still a student, had the opportunity to be on stage in 1946 for the reopening of the Royal Opera House after the Second World War with Sleeping Beauty.
From Sadler’s Wells school, Goldwyn joined the Anglo-Polish Ballet, a wartime company originally established to provide employment for exiled Polish dancers. Six months later the company folded, but not before Goldwyn had danced its final season at the Saville Theater in the West End, in repertoire at Polish ballets like Cracow Wedding and in the corps de ballet for Les Sylphides and Swan Lake Act. II.
It was then that Goldwyn auditioned for Ballet Rambert, but the core company was about to embark on what became an 18-month tour of Australia and New Zealand. Nevertheless, Rambert gave Goldwyn a scholarship to study at the school, with the promise of a place in the company upon their return. For 18 months Goldwyn studied with Anna Ivanova and Mary Skeaping (both former dancers in Anna Pavlova’s company). She appeared as a fairy in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream at Regent’s Park Theater in the summer of 1948 and was set to join Rambert the following year.
She retired from the company in 1960, but retained a love of dance and the arts. For the Inner London Education Authority she taught ballet in evening classes in the 60s and 70s, and in the 90s she studied flamenco in Seville. She served as an artist’s model and took up painting, in 1991 exhibiting her work at the gallery in St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.
Goldwyn’s first marriage, in 1955, to Christopher Norwood, was short-lived. In 1969, she married Andrew Karney, a scientist and businessman. He survives her, as do their son, Peter, and their two grandchildren, Adrian and Vivienne.
• Beryl Fleur Goldwyn, dancer, born December 31, 1930; died on October 11, 2022