SOUTH Africa and the international dance community are mourning the death of Louis Godfrey, who died in Somerset West on Friday.
Godfrey was born in Johannesburg, the son of one of the finest tutu makers in the area, including Pretoria.
As a youngster he trained as a classical ballet dancer under the “great teachers” of the day – stalwarts such as Marjorie Sturman, Ivy Conmee and Poppy Frames – before going on to a highly illustrious career as a dancer, teacher and producer.
That career began when he was 18 and joined Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin to tour England. In 1950 they invited him to become a founder member and principal dancer of their newly formed London Festival Ballet (later English National Ballet).
A dancer with acting ability, Godfrey could dance the Prince in the Nutcracker with elegance and then give a heart-wrenching performance of Petrouchka.
His stature as a dancer led Dolin to link him with John Gilpin, Andre Prokovsky and Fleming Flindt in Dolin’s all-male showpiece, Variations of Four.
Returning to South Africa in 1969, Godfrey joined Pact as ballet master and then joined forces with his wife, ballerina Denise Schultz, to become Pact’s co-director. In this capacity they built a strong classical repertoire around the 70-member company.
After leaving Pact, Godfrey and Schultz moved to Ballet West in Salt Lake City as ballet master and ballet mistress.
During their time with Ballet West, this knowledgeable duo staged many of the great classical ballets such as Giselle, Sleeping Beauty and Les Sylphides.
Godfrey’s wide reputation earned him invitations to work throughout America and he spent seven years as associate artistic director of Nevada Ballet, as well as some time at the National Ballet School of Canada in Toronto.
Back home, he and Schultz staged Swan Lake for South African Ballet Theatre while still working overseas teaching and producing ballets for different companies.
After settling in Somerset West, Godfrey and Schultz added considerable input into the local scene.
He worked with Debbie Turner’s Cape Academy of Dance and was, on occasion, guest teacher with Cape Town City Ballet, whose honorary executive director, Elizabeth Triegaardt, sums up Godfrey’s contribution: “It is entirely due to the work of teachers and producers such as he that professional ballet in South Africa can be considered world class.”