Barbara fewster teaching a student to apply makeup in the 1960s

Barbara Fewster (1928 – 2024)

Barbara Fewster (born 4 Sept 1928 – died 4 July 2024)

The Royal Ballet School is deeply saddened to learn that Barbara Fewster, former Ballet Principal and Associate Director of the School, has died, aged 95.

An English dancer and renowned teacher, Barbara Fewster began her ballet training as a pupil of the Wessex School in Bournemouth. At the age of fifteen, she entered the Sadler’s Wells (later The Royal) Ballet School in 1942, joining the Sadler’s Wells Opera Ballet upon graduation. When the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet was formed in 1946, she duly became a founder member of the Company, which soon embarked upon an adventurous tour of post-War Europe.

In 1947, Fewster was appointed assistant ballet mistress to the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, working under Peggy van Praagh who passed on her deep knowledge of Enrico Cecchetti’s teaching methods to her young protegée. When van Praagh became assistant director of the Company in 1951/2, Fewster succeeded her as its ballet mistress. She also acted as the ballet mistress for the Old Vic’s famous Michael Benthall production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring Moira Shearer and Robert Helpmann, which toured the United States in 1954-55.

Fewster began teaching at The Sadler’s Wells/Royal Ballet School in 1955. She was appointed Deputy Ballet Principal in 1967, under Ursula Moreton’s directorship. After Moreton retired, Fewster became Ballet Principal of The Royal Ballet School from 1968-82. When Dame Merle Park became the Director of the School in 1983, Fewster became Associate Director, a position she held until 1988.

Barbara Fewster introduced several important initiatives during her career with the School. In the early 1960s she supported Peter Brinson’s efforts to establish an educational touring group, by allowing students to take part in lecture-demonstrations (the enterprise later became ‘Ballet For All’). In 1972 she asked Nora Roche to devise and supervise a new programme of Junior Associate classes designed for 8-11 year-old children interested in entering full time vocational training. She also appointed Audrey Harman as the School’s first official archivist in 1979, thereby playing a vital role in helping to preserve its unique heritage for future generations.

By Anna Meadmore, Manager of Special Collections, The Royal Ballet School

Image: Barbara Fewster teaching a student to apply makeup in the 1960s. Source: The Royal Ballet School Special Collections