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Duncan Noble Passes Away

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Duncan Noble, ballet master, mentor, friend, and beloved teacher at North Carolina School of the Arts, passed away early this morning at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC. There were complications after a recent heart surgery from which he was unable to recover. We loved him so much. He was a great and inspirational teacher. He was an elegant and generous man. Always dignified, his classes gave us strength and his teaching gave us a love for classicism. At the moment I do not know about any arrangements for funeral or memorial services but I will post news as I receive it. We mourn his passing, but celebrate his life and the gift of dance he gave to his students.


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August 7, 2002

"Dancer, teacher and choreographer Duncan Noble died Aug. 5, 2002, at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center after a brief illness. A founding faculty member of the North Carolina School of the Arts School of Dance, he also had a long and successful dance career in this country, Canada and abroad. Mr. Noble was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Aug. 2, 1922, the son of Angus and Agnes Noble McGillvary. He studied classical dance with June Roper in Vancouver and danced with Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre), the famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Valerie Bettis' company. He appeared in more than seven Broadway shows, including Something for the Boys, On the Town, One Touch of Venus, Annie Get Your Gun, Pal Joey, Can Can and Paint Your Wagon, featuring, among others, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman and Gwen Verdon. From 1955 to 59, he was a featured performer in Max Liebman's NBC spectaculars. Among the great choreographers he worked with are Folkine, Jerome Robbins, Massine, and Agnes de Mille. Mr. Noble was an assistant dean in the School of Dance from 1975 to 87, acting dean in 1987-88 and when he retired in 1993, the school awarded him an honorary doctorate. After his retirement, he continued to teach as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Dance until his death. During his teaching career, he was above all recognized as a coach and teacher of male dancers and the long list of his former students includes Keith Roberts, Chris Martin, Robert Conn and the late Patrick Bissell, all of whom danced with American Ballet Theatre; the late Edward Stierle of The Joffrey Ballet; and Peter Frame and Mel Tomlinson of New York City Ballet. Mr. Noble coached Stierle when he won the ballet world's highest honor for young dancers, the gold at the Prix de Lausanne. As a guest teacher, he has taught throughout the country and abroad at the Nederlands Dans Theatre and the Hungarian Dance Academy. His ballet choreography has been performed by Ruth Mitchell Dance Theatre, North Carolina School of the Arts, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Marietta Civic Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Toronto Opera Festival and at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. He was renowned for his work as a choreographer for summer stock musical theater all over the country, from Lambertville, N.J., to West Palm Beach and from St. Paul to Fort Worth. Mr. Noble was director and choreographer of the school of Pittsburgh Playhouse and director-in-residence at the Lost Colony in Manteo. He adjudicated for the National Association of Regional Ballets; was on the Dance Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts; and served as a consultant for many arts organizations including the West Virginia Department of Culture and History, which honored him with "Duncan Noble Day" in 1992. Greensboro Ballet gave him a lifetime achievement award last year. In 1992, he founded the Festival of North Carolina Dance, which recognizes and supports the work of dancers and companies throughout the state. His numerous ballets for children, including Peter and the Wolf and The Swan Princess, are seen annually by thousands of elementary-age children in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and across North Carolina. He is survived by a nephew, Allen Jones of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. At Mr. Noble's expressed wish, a fund has been established at the School of the Arts in his name for scholarships and special needs of dance students and the dance program. Memorial gifts may be made to the Duncan Noble Dance Fund, payable to the NCSA Foundation Inc., Development Office, North Carolina School of the Arts, 1533 Main St., Winston-Salem, NC 27127. Memorial plans are incomplete at this time."

Mr. Noble was my daughter's(95-97') principal teacher one of the years she attended NCSA. We are both saddened at his passing.

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I have a few vivid memories of Mr. Noble, but the one that sticks with me above all else was the day he taught me that to execute a glissade with one's arms in second position was "in very poor taste". As embarrased as I may have been at that time, it is something that makes me smile, now. Mr. Noble was a man of few words, so when he spoke, telling stories of the way things were in the Ballet Russe, everyone listened. He seemed to come from a different place in time- an era of manners, chivalry and glamourous ballerinas. A compliment from Mr. Noble was of the highest order- he had seen so much in his time. His advice you could always use, and his knowledge you could always appreciate. He had such a presence, that even if I didn't see him (when I have returned to visit NCSA), I still knew that he had been there- that he had been around. I would hear the students speak of him the same way we spoke of him when I was a student- respectfully, reverently. He was a legend in his own right, and now, I suspect, will become even moreso.

Good-bye, Nr. Noble, and thanks for helping me with that glissade.

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