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Basil Thompson, RIP


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#1 Amy Reusch

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Posted 03 November 2004 - 07:13 PM

AP's Obituary for Basil Thompson (in the NY Times, page down)

Thompson, trained by the Sadlers Wells Ballet School in London, was a former soloist with the American Ballet Theatre in New York and former artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet.

He also was a former master of the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet, and only recently had reconstructed ``Petrouchka'' for the Joffrey's Nureyev Tribute.

Thompson began his performance career with the Covent Garden Opera Ballet. In 1955, he transferred to the Sadlers Wells Ballet Co., now the Royal Ballet. He joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1960. In 1967, he joined the Joffrey as ballet master, working closely with Robert Joffrey at a time when the company was at its creative peak.


Beats me why this wasn't linked in the Dance Section of the NY Times Arts, but it wasn't.

I'm hoping people will add some personal memories of Basil Thompson here. [I'm sure Major Mel must have known him.] I had the pleasure of studying with him at NJ Ballet in perhaps 1980... must have been just after he left the Joffrey? First we had his ex-wife, Alaine Haubert... whom isn't mentioned in the obituary... but I believe they had a child together? Then she headed out to teach at a university in Hawaii (later returning to become ballet mistress for ABT... though I don't believe she's there now...) and Charthel Arthur took over her classes... then she headed out to Grand Rapids and Basil Thompson took over... we had a regular conduit to Joffrey talent in those days! It's been a long while, but I still remember a correction or two of his... about arabesques mostly... he was always getting after us not to resemble railroad crossing signs, if I remember ;). In some ways his style reminded me of Patrelli's. Years later, I ran into him again when I was shooting for Ballet Chicago and he set a charming "Coppelia" on them. It was one of the last things they did as a company... Meredith Benson was wonderful in it, although she had already performed the ballet as set by Frederic Franklin on ?Cincinatti? Ballet (or was it Cleveland?).

For some reason, the word "droll" comes to mind when I think of Basil.

#2 Amy Reusch

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Posted 03 November 2004 - 08:17 PM

I don't know why, but the NY Times' AP article is shorter than the one on Yahoo.
Here's the link for that
Ballet Master Basil Thompson Dies

"Basil brought joy, vigor and dedication to his work as a ballet master, teacher and coach," Gerald Arpino, founder and artistic director of the Joffrey, said Tuesday. "He knew the art of ballet thoroughly and lovingly shared it with all of us."

Alan Sener, chairman of the University of Iowa dance department, said he had last seen Thompson at a performance of "Petrouchka" last week.

"I sat one row behind his family, where I watched him dance all the parts from his seat," Sener said.

He said the university had lost a tremendous asset in Thompson.

"He provided a very valuable bridge between the professional field and academe. He was loved by the students and he provided an exuberance, a sense of vitality and a love of life, which he brought to both his teaching and his work on stage," Sener said.



#3 Guest_Philip_*

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Posted 03 November 2004 - 09:56 PM

Some personal memories of Basil...

I first saw Basil dance Robbins "Fancy Free" in ABT the ballet predecessor to the musical "on the Town", when I was a boy in the early 60s. I met Basil when I first auditioned for Joffrey in the mid 70s. Basil became my friend coach and mentor, particularly when I was with Milwaukee Ballet in the early 80s. During summer layoffs, Basil would teach class and coach me in variations I'd never heard of before. He got me strong and we used to talk about how dance should be done from the soul, but a dancer must be strong first. I was a bit confused by Basil's approach which was so strange for an Englishman trained at Sadler's Wells; he seemed to be much more influenced by Vaganova than the English.

After a we finished, we'd go to to the stadium and take in a Milwaukee Brewers double header. There was always too much beer. Later, Basil stopped drinking. It was a life changing decision and helped him become a better coach and director. But, before and after that time, we were always friends.

I left Milwaukee ballet for other companies, college, then retirement and teaching. But we stayed in touch every now and then, through the years. I called him when traveling through Iowa on a fathers day two summers ago. He was joyful and happy with his wife and kids, who I never had a chance to meet. I told him I'd arrange in advance to drop by the next time I was in Iowa City. I looks like I didn't make it in time.

I'm going to miss you, Basil. I have around 6 mentors out of 10 left from a now long ended career. I'm going to make sure I stay in touch with them, before its too late.

Philip S. Rosemond.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 November 2004 - 05:02 AM

I first met Basil when he was a teacher on the staff of the Joffrey School in 1966. He was a strict teacher with high standards, and very able to convey technical information to students in a highly efficient manner. I was not at all surprised when Mr. Joffrey selected him to be the company's ballet master. While with the company, I found Basil a boon companion, and a right merry fellow, but who commanded the respect of the company in class and rehearsal. He was married to Alaine Haubert at the time, and they had a son, Edward; I may have been the only one in the company who called him "Eddie" and we used to make paper airplanes of new and original designs to fly during the breaks in rehearsal. Once, in Denver, when we had a delay in a connecting flight, we played Pong together for about two hours, alleviating boredom and anxiety for both of us. Basil was witty and clever, and demanding, yet reasonable. We need more like him these days, but I'm afraid that they don't make them like that anymore.

#5 Guest_Mrs. Basil Thompson_*

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 05:41 PM

My name is Mrs Basil Thompson aka Kitty Carroll. I was told about this site from a friend who had seen it and suggested I visit. I admit, I'm new to this sort of thing. Forgive me if I'm not writing in the best of places. I am deeply moved by the lovely things people have written about Basil. I would so love to get in touch with you all. I've been reading so many things about Basil, yet some things are consistent: his humor, his devotion to class, his expertise, his vivacity. I assure you all, he had these and more to the end. Basil was married to Alaine Haubert, they did have a son, Edward. Edward is now 38 years old and living in London. Baisl and I met at the Milwaukee Ballet over 20 years ago. We have 2 great kids and we miss him. We are uplifted by the wonderful responses from people and dancers all over the world. I invite any and all to visit the website we've created for him: www.basilthompson.net. We would love to hear from all of you. Please share a story, or just sign the guest book. There are pictures and clippings, and we've reserved a favorite page: Basilisms. These are quotes of Basil's that he used to always say in class. Please visit us. And thanks for all the lovely sentiments.

#6 Alexandra

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 09:00 PM

Welcome, Mrs. T. I'm sorry you found us on such a sad occasion. Please accept our condolences on your loss. And if you'd like to come back in the future, you're aways welcome. I hope some of our posters will contact you.

#7 Guest_Mrs. Basil Thompson_*

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 06:19 AM

AP's Obituary for Basil Thompson (in the NY Times, page down)

Thompson, trained by the Sadlers Wells Ballet School in London, was a former soloist with the American Ballet Theatre in New York and former artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet.

He also was a former master of the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet, and only recently had reconstructed ``Petrouchka'' for the Joffrey's Nureyev Tribute.

Thompson began his performance career with the Covent Garden Opera Ballet. In 1955, he transferred to the Sadlers Wells Ballet Co., now the Royal Ballet. He joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1960. In 1967, he joined the Joffrey as ballet master, working closely with Robert Joffrey at a time when the company was at its creative peak.


Beats me why this wasn't linked in the Dance Section of the NY Times Arts, but it wasn't.

I'm hoping people will add some personal memories of Basil Thompson here. [I'm sure Major Mel must have known him.] I had the pleasure of studying with him at NJ Ballet in perhaps 1980... must have been just after he left the Joffrey? First we had his ex-wife, Alaine Haubert... whom isn't mentioned in the obituary... but I believe they had a child together? Then she headed out to teach at a university in Hawaii (later returning to become ballet mistress for ABT... though I don't believe she's there now...) and Charthel Arthur took over her classes... then she headed out to Grand Rapids and Basil Thompson took over... we had a regular conduit to Joffrey talent in those days! It's been a long while, but I still remember a correction or two of his... about arabesques mostly... he was always getting after us not to resemble railroad crossing signs, if I remember ;). In some ways his style reminded me of Patrelli's. Years later, I ran into him again when I was shooting for Ballet Chicago and he set a charming "Coppelia" on them. It was one of the last things they did as a company... Meredith Benson was wonderful in it, although she had already performed the ballet as set by Frederic Franklin on ?Cincinatti? Ballet (or was it Cleveland?).

For some reason, the word "droll" comes to mind when I think of Basil.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



#8 Guest_Mrs. Basil Thompson_*

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 06:25 AM

I hope I can hear from lots of people on this site. Please check out our own site at : www.basilthompson.net. We, the kids and I, would love to hear from all of you. There are already some great stories logged on regarding Basil. I just spoke with some very dear old friends who said they were embarassed about writing one story. This one involved Basil getting in a fight in a bar. The story sounded hysterically funny to me, and very typically Basil. Typical at least for his drinking days. I'm glad to say, I did not experience any of those types of stories in my 20 years with him. However, his stories were still funny and usually outrageous. Who said the word "droll" comes to mind with Basil? I can think of many words. I'm not sure all would be appropriate to relay. But, excellence in performance, great humor, funny, demanding of his students/dancers as he was with himself, all of those come to mind. Loving, most definately. Thanks so much for all your stories. They are so helpful at this time.

#9 grace

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 06:57 AM

it's very touching that this site has enabled people who otherwise would not have been in touch, to BE in touch, in this context.

something (more!) for you to be pleased about and proud of, alexandra.

#10 Amy Reusch

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 01:22 PM

www.basilthompson.net
(just to make it easier)

#11 grace

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 03:06 PM

thanks amy, for the link to this site. i did not know anything of basil thompson, but i enjoyed looking at the site, and i particularly appreciate these bon mots:

Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.

Postage stamp dancing.

Looks like you're ready for the morgue!

My dead grandmother could do it with more energy.

If I can do it at my age...

I can't do it for you.

If you pretend to work, I'll pretend to pay you.



#12 Alexandra

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 05:32 PM

They're great! Thanks for copying them here, grace. (and thanks for the kind words)

#13 sandik

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Posted 21 November 2004 - 10:22 PM

Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.


True for dancers and airplane pilots.


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