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Houston Ballet principal Amy Fote takes her final bow as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker this month. On November 30, Houston Ballet’s annual gala pays tribute to her seven-year career with the company.
Before she joined HB, Fote danced with Milwaukee Ballet, where she achieved the rank of principal, for 14 seasons.
Fote possesses an intimate generosity onstage. As lovely as her dancing can be, her humanity always comes to the fore. Sometimes she goes full blast into a role; at other times, she invites us to come closer, to embrace the complexity of her character.
Artistic director Stanton Welch considers Fote one of his muses, and set about a dozen of his works on her, including The Four Seasons. “She’s so complete, and such an inspiration to choreograph on,” says Welch. “With her fantastic work ethic, Amy has been a great role model. She is part of the legacy of this company.”
Fote, a consummate technician (profiled in “Pure Imagination,” Jan. 2008), praises the “amazing rep” of HB. She is known for her portrayals of Cio-Cio San in Madame Butterfly, Tatiana in Cranko’s Onegin, and Hanna in Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, as well as humorous roles in Robbins’ The Concert, and Wheeldon’s Carnival of the Animals.
Fote also excelled in Welch’s Clear, where she held her own with seven men onstage. She is considering many post-dance career options, including teaching, coaching, and acting. —Nancy Wozny
Fote as Carabosse in Ben Stevenson’s Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy HB.
Yvonne Mounsey (1919–2012)
As a principal in New York City Ballet from 1949 to 1958, Yvonne Mounsey’s flair for drama, impressive height, and sensual appeal ignited the femme-fatale roles she often danced. She was most famously remembered as the Siren in Balanchine’s Prodigal Son.
“She’s bad,” Mounsey said of the Siren in a recent interview. “I used to like playing bad.” She also danced the Queen in Robbins’ The Cage (1951). The title fit so well that Robbins called her “Queenie” thereafter. He drew upon her comedic talent when he created the Wife in The Concert (1956); the ending of her Harp solo in Fanfare (1953) capitalized on her acrobatic capabilities. Balanchine featured her in La Valse (1951) and Swan Lake (1951), and as the Spanish divertissement in The Nutcracker (1954).
Born Yvonne Louise Leibbrandt in 1919 outside Pretoria, South Africa, as a girl she danced barefoot on her family’s farm. She studied ballet in South Africa and in London with Igor Schwezoff. She auditioned for Léonide Massine, entering the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1939. Following the outbreak of World War II, she joined the Original Ballet Russe in Australia, taking the Russified name Irina Zarova. She danced featured roles in Fokine’s Le Coq d’Or and David Lichine’s Graduation Ball. Balanchine created a role for her in his Balustrade (1941).
Members of the Original Ballet Russe, Zarova among them, went on strike in Cuba and she was stranded. Yvonne found a job creating a solo act in an upscale Havana nightclub, then toured Latin America through 1945. In 1967 Mounsey founded what would become the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, California.
Among the many alumni are Jock Soto, Tiler Peck, and Joy Womack. The choreographer Melissa Barak, who trained with Mounsey and danced with NYCB and Los Angeles Ballet, says, “To us she was so much more than a ballet figure. Yvonne taught me a healthy emotional foundation and to love this art form.” Like many former Balanchine dancers, Mounsey emphasized footwork, but her primary concern was artistry.
Into her ninth decade Mounsey carried on like a woman half her age. “She was such a lively person,” says her former student Andrew Veyette, an NYCB principal. “Happy and proud and gracious. Engaged and involved, not complacent.” —Emily Hite
Mounsey as the Siren in Prodigal Son. Photo by Walter Owen from the DM Archives.
Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz, principal dancers at San Francisco Ballet, welcomed Luciana De Souza-Feijoo in July.
The happy family with Luciana. Photo courtesy SFB.