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Obituary: Clover Roope – ballet and contemporary dancer, choreographer and teacher

Clover Roope’s conversion from classical ballet to contemporary dance mirrored the broadening of British dance vocabulary in the 1960s and beyond as the influence of American iconoclasts Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham began to filter across the Atlantic.

Born in Bristol, Roope was among the first intake of students at the Sadler’s Wells School and made her professional debut with the ballet company of Sadler’s Wells Opera before joining the Royal Ballet. There she created roles for Kenneth MacMillan and began to choreograph her own work, producing her first ballet,  Le Farceur, for the Sunday Ballet Club series at Wyndham’s Theatre in 1958.

The following year she choreographed Through the Looking Glass for Oxford Playhouse and in 1960 performed in two Shakespeare comedies with the Bristol Old Vic.

Shortly afterwards she left the Royal Ballet to join Western Theatre Ballet as assistant choreographer and dancer, scoring personal successes in Gillian Lynne’s The Owl and the Pussycat, Mikhail Fokine’s Le Carnaval in 1961 and MacMillan’s Valse Excentrique (1962).

She spent two years in the US studying with Graham, Cunningham and Alwin Nikolais as the first dancer to secure a Harkness scholarship. She returned home in 1966 a convert to contemporary dance to join Ballet Rambert in the dual roles of dancer and teacher.

Notable appearances with Rambert included Glen Tetley’s Bible-inspired Ziggurat (1967) and John Chesworth’s bleak depiction of the aftermath of an atomic bomb, H (1968).

In the decade ahead, Roope’s choreography was increasingly seen on both sides of the Atlantic in productions by Scottish Opera,  Northern Dance Theatre, Toronto Dance  Theatre and others.

Increasingly, teaching became more prominent – at the Academia de la Danza in Mexico City, classes at the Dance Centre, London and, from 1979, as a principal tutor with responsibility for contemporary dance at the Rambert Academy and in later years with  Arts Educational Schools.

Katherine Clover Roope was born on  June 12, 1937 and died on April 18, aged 82.

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