Moira Shearer

(Lady Kennedy; Moira Shearer King)

1926 - 2006

Ballerina, actress and authoress. Born Moira Shearer King in Dunfermline (Fife), the daughter of an engineer, she was educated at Dunfermline High School before the family moved to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) where she began dancing. She returned to continue her education at Bearsden Academy in 1934. Her formal dance training came at the Mayfair School, Legat Studio and Sadler's Wells School (London). Next only to Margot Fonteyn, Shearer became Sadler's Wells leading ballerina, starring in classic ballets such as Sleeping Beauty (1946) and Swan Lake (1946). The stunning redhead also danced the lead in Frederick Ashton's The Quest (1943), Symphonic Variations (1946), Scenes de Ballet (1948) and Cinderella (1948), as well as Robert Helpmann's Miracle in the Gorbals (1944) and Leonide Massine's The Clock Symphony (1948).

Shearer is best-remembered for her outstanding performance in The Red Shoes (1948), which popularised ballet and made Shearer the best-known ballerina in Britain. Yet, after this film she found it increasingly difficult to prove her credibility as a ballerina. In 1950, she married journalist Ludovic Kennedy and left Sadler's Wells in 1952. Further film roles included Tales of Hoffmann (1951), The Story of Three Loves (1953), The Man Who Loved Redheads (1955) and Black Tights (1960). Shearer also worked as a continuity announcer for the BBC and appeared on stage as, for example, Titania in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream for the 1954 Edinburgh Festival, which later toured North America, and L.S. Lowry's mother in A Simple Man with the Northern Ballet Theatre (1987). She wrote Balletmaster: A Dancer's View of George Balanchine (1986) and a biography of actress Ellen Terry (1998). She served on the Scottish Arts Council (1971-73) and the Arts Council of Great Britain (1973-75).

She died in Oxford and was buried at Durisdeer.

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