Sunday, January 22, 2012

Meredith Baylis, BHS 1947

Meredith Baylis, 73; Danced With the Famed Ballets Russes

Los Angeles Times (CA) - August 10, 2002

Meredith Baylis, a former dancer in the fabled Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo who went on to become a noted teacher in the Joffrey Ballet School and then taught for two decades in Southern California, has died. She was 73.

Baylis died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank on July 26 of complications from heart surgery.

Of Scottish-Irish descent, Baylis was born in Burbank on April 4, 1929, and came from a theatrical family. Her great-aunt Lilian Baylis was the director of London's Old Vic Theatre from which both the National Theatre of Great Britain and the Royal Ballet eventually emerged. She studied ballet locally and in New York, graduated from Burbank High School in 1947 and shortly afterward joined a national touring company of the musical "Carousel." She later danced on Broadway in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Can-Can" and "The Girl in Pink Tights."

In the 1951-52 season, she joined the Ballets Russes, then the world's most glamorous classical dance company, dancing featured roles and later working as a coach for the company until its closure in 1962. "The Ballets Russes was the first blending of the Old World and the New World in ballet," she told dance historian Jack Anderson when he was researching a book on the company. "It linked St. Petersburg [Russia] with America and Canada."

Five years after the Ballets Russes folded, she was teaching at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, formed as a training adjunct to the ballet company founded by Robert Joffrey. Baylis taught there for more than 20 years, pioneering the teaching of ballet to deaf children. In 1979, she chose Ron Reagan to be a scholarship student, not knowing that he was the president's son.

She left Joffrey in the 1980s and returned to Burbank to care for her father, continuing to teach on her own and with other Ballets Russes alumnae.

She is survived by a brother, Richard Baylis of Huntington Beach.

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