Posted on April 29, 2014
The Royal Ballet School has announced that Gailene Stock, its director since 1999, died on April 29, 2014, following a long battle with cancer.
Born in Ballarat, Australia in 1946, Gailene Stock started dancing at the age of four, but contracted polio when she was eight. Doctors believed she would never walk again, but through painstaking effort and exercise, she not only walked but returned to dance.
After training at the Himing School in Melbourne and with Paul Hammond, she became the youngest member of the newly-formed Australian Ballet before taking up a Royal Academy of Dance scholarship at The Royal Ballet School in 1963. She went on to dance with the Australian Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She married Gary Norman, principal dancer with the Australian Ballet, and had one daughter, Lisa.
In 1979, she was appointed director of the National Theatre Ballet School in Victoria, Australia. She also taught at the Victorian College of the Arts, the Australian Ballet School and for the Vancouver Ballet Society and the National Ballet School in Canada. In 1990, she was appointed director of the Australian Ballet School.
She took over from Merle Park as director of The Royal Ballet School in 1999. As director, she put greater emphasis on contemporary dance and pas de deux and introduced a third year at the Upper School, giving students the chance to audition overseas and perform on secondment with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. She also introduced international touring opportunities for the School itself. Under Stock’s leadership, the employment of graduating students rose from 48 per cent to between 95 and 100 per cent, which has been sustained for the last seven years.
“Gailene Stock has made an extraordinary contribution to dance,” said Kevin O’Hare, director of The Royal Ballet. “Her talent, drive and determination, first as a ballerina and subsequently as a much admired teacher, led her finally to her post as director of our own Royal Ballet School, a position she has held since 1999. Under her direction the School has gone from strength to strength and on behalf of The Royal Ballet, and in particular all of its dancers who were former students of hers, I salute all that she has achieved for them and for the dance world as a whole.”
During Gailene Stock’s illness, Jay Jolley assumed the role of acting director. Christopher Powney has recently joined as artistic director designate.
Picture: Gailene Stock. Photograph: Patrick Baldwin