Yvonne Mounsey, New York City Ballet star, dies at 93

Yvonne Mounsey, who danced major roles for George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins with the New York City Ballet in the 1950s and went on to found an influential West Coast ballet school, died Sept. 29 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 93.

She died of cancer, said her daughter, Allegra Clegg.

(Todd Lechtick) - Yvonne Mounsey, who danced major roles for George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins with the New York City Ballet in the 1950s and went on to found an influential West Coast ballet school, died Sept. 29 at her home in Los Angeles.

Ms. Mounsey danced with the City Ballet from the late 1940s to 1958, rising from soloist to principal dancer.

She was the Dark Angel in Balanchine’s “Serenade” and Siren in his 1950 revival of “Prodigal Son,” which were among her favorite roles, her daughter said.

For Robbins, she originated the roles of the Queen in “The Cage,” the Harp in “Fanfare” and the Wife in “The Concert.”

Ms. Mounsey was born Yvonne Louise Leibbrandt in 1919 on a South African dairy farm outside of Pretoria. She began taking ballet lessons at 7 with a former member of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova’s company.

She later studied and danced in England and performed around the world with various companies, including the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She was with another company, the Original Ballet Russe, when Balanchine saw her in New York in 1940. He created a part for her in his 1941 “Balustrade.”

She became stranded in Cuba in 1941 when the other dancers on tour went on strike and the company disbanded. She survived by becoming a nightclub dancer.

After her New York City Ballet years, she helped found a ballet company in South Africa. In 1966, she moved to Los Angeles and opened the Westside School of Ballet, teaching the neoclassical Balanchine technique, which has become a signature style of ballet in America.

The Santa Monica school’s students have included former City Ballet star Jock Soto and current company principal dancers Andrew Veyette and Tiler Peck. The school also counts Joy Womack, the first American woman to dance with the Bolshoi Ballet, among the world-class dancers it has trained.