For ballerina Beryl Goldwyn, who died of cancer at the age of 91, there was something rewarding about starting her career on the stage of the Royal Opera House with Margot Fonteyn in Sleeping Beauty in 1946, and ending it with Sylvie Guillem in Don Quixote in 1993-94.
In these ballets she played minor roles – a rat entering with Carabosse’s carriage and a Spanish woman – but in the meantime she was a full-fledged dancer, acclaimed for her interpretations of Giselle. Critic Peter Williams observed that in Giselle’s insane scene “you can see the chill of her death running through her arms from her fingertips.” When she portrayed her spirit in Act II, “her supernatural and ethereal qualities of hers bore a certain resemblance to [Alicia] Markova ”and, like Yvette Chauviré,“ brings something of the Giselle live to the novice Wili ”.
The favorable confrontation with these international stars was truly praise and, although Goldwyn never achieved international status, Richard Buckle’s comments on the boredom of “walking around Sadler’s Wells for an unknown Giselle. [Goldwyn] and then Flash! Bam! Alacazam! – One is taken and breathlessly overwhelmed by the excitement of the melodrama… ”she says a lot about her performances.
Goldwyn was typical of the dancers sighted by Marie Rambert, founder of Ballet Rambert, early in their career. Rambert would provide opportunities as she intimidated them and persuaded them to become a dancer. It has been a hard and busy life, as Rambert relentlessly “coached” her favorite stars of hers, when she traveled, when she was preparing to take the stage and even after a show, but she paid off for her. Even early in his career, Goldwyn was lucky enough to find a sympathetic partner in Alexander Bennett.
He initially made an impression in the chamber ballets reprized for Ballet at Eight, Rambert’s latest performances at Notting Hill Gate’s tiny Mercury Theater. These introduced Goldwyn to the choreography of Walter Gore and Antony Tudor. In 1954 she danced every night in Giselle’s Act I at London’s Stoll Theater, as curtain-raising for Ingrid Bergman performing Joan of Arc at the stake, and toured with Rambert in Europe, and at festivals at Jacob’s Pillow in United States and in the Roman ruins of the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbeck, Lebanon.
On both occasions that John Cranko choreographed for Rambert, he chose Goldwyn for the lead roles; the lady with her shadow in Variations on a theme (1955) and the girl in black in La Reja (1959). The American choreographer Robert Joffrey was also taken by Goldwyn and chose her for the role of Taglioni in his Pas de Déesses (1955). Goldwyn was, in fact, a dancer capable of capturing the essence of romantic ballet.
But he 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 particular modern technique”. In 1958 Goldwyn played the role of the sensitive Bride in Deryk Mendel’s experimental Platonic ballet Epithalame; critic Clive Barnes described her as “fresh, adorable and radiant”.
Beryl was born in Pinner, Middlesex, the daughter of Louis Goldwyn, an Australian chartered accountant, and his wife, Primrose (née Lewis). At age three, she responded so clearly to her radio music that her mother enrolled her at the local dance school. She trained at Sadler’s Wells school and, while still a student, she had the opportunity to take the stage in 1946 for the reopening of the Royal Opera House after World War II with Sleeping Beauty.
From Sadler’s Wells school, Goldwyn joined the Anglo-Polish Ballet, a wartime company initially founded to provide jobs for exiled Polish dancers. Six months later, the company disbanded, but not before Goldwyn danced in their final season at the Saville Theater in the West End, in a repertoire of Polish ballets such as Cracow Wedding, and in the corps de ballet for Les Sylphides and Swan Lake Act II.
It was then that Goldwyn auditioned for the Rambert Ballet, but the main company was about to embark on what became an 18-month tour of Australia and New Zealand. However, Rambert granted 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 with Anna Pavlova’s company). She appeared as a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Regent’s Park theater in the summer of 1948 and was ready to join Rambert the following year.
He 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 1960s and 1970s and in the 1990s she studied flamenco in Seville. She served as a model for an artist and began painting, in 1991 exhibiting her work of hers at St Martin-in-the-Fields gallery, London.
Goldwyn’s first marriage, in 1955, to Christopher Norwood, was short-lived. In 1969 she married Andrew Karney, a scientist and businessman. She outlives her, as do their son, Peter, and two grandchildren, Adrian and Vivienne.
• Beryl Fleur Goldwyn, dancer, born on December 31, 1930; died on 11 October 2022