A man of considerable artistic talents, wit and humour, Alan Carter, born 1920 died peacefully at his home in Bournemouth in 2009. Julia, his wife and companion for over forty-five years, has been left with a legacy of his paintings, an autobiography and other short stories (completed but not edited), musical compositions and memories of an extraordinary life together.
It was on the advice of a doctor that Alan, very thin, first started dancing classes in Tunbridge Wells. Passing all his Royal Academy of Dancing exams with honours, he was taken away from school to pursue an artistic education. At fourteen, after the tragic death of his father, Alan and his mother moved to London, where he attended the Chelsea Art School once a week, Henry Moore being there at the time. Alan studied dance and acting at the Italia Conti School. The famous dancers, Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin being often present. He had private ballet lessons with the Russian Princess Serafina Astafieva at the Pheasantry in Kings Road, where he and Peggy Hookham (Margot Fonteyn) shared many classes, becoming good friends - the two mothers sitting on the coal box watching their offsprings.
Alan's greatest influence was Nicholai Legat, famous Russian dancer, who emigrated to London, had his enormous studio in Colet Gardens (next to the Royal Ballet School). Alan, mixing with all the famous ballet dancers of that period, had found his Master – a teacher of considerable depth and understanding of the art of dance, épaulement and flow of movement, as well as an accomplished caricature artist. After Legat died, Alan was accepted by Ninette de Valois into the Vic Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet) aged sixteen.
His first principal role was Harlequin, specially choreographed for him by Frederick Ashton in 'Harlequin in the Street' in 1937. He enjoyed dancing various roles during the next years before being enlisted in the RAF for war service after which he returned to the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet as a principal and produced his first choreography 'The Catch', which became a show stopper. Later on he danced and directed the St. James's Ballet Company, formed by the Arts Council of Great Britain.
Alan was much involved with the everlasting and successful film 'The Red Shoes'. He was assistant to Robert Helpmann and Ballet Master for all the dancing, the hiring of the dancers and rehearsals, and also danced the role of Benno in the Swan Lake scene. He knew Moira Shearer very well and they remained friends until her death several years ago. Subsequently Alan was Ballet Master for several films, namely: 'The Tales of Hoffmann', 'Invitation to the Dance' directed by Gene Kelly, and choreographed the film 'The Man who loved Redheads' with Moira Shearer. He was also Choreographer and Ballet Master at the Empire Cinema, London with three shows a day, daily training and rehearsals too, and choreographed the London Palladium Show with Norman Wisdom and other stars.
From the age of twelve Alan always enjoyed sketching, painting, composing and playing the piano – these pursuits he continued right to the end. He was very proud when George Bernard Shaw signed his sketch of the great man in Malvern, 1935 – Alan was fourteen at the time, and it was a well known fact that Shaw never signed anything! Julia still has the picture!
In 1954 Alan was invited to become Ballet Director to the Munich Staatsoper. Over the next five years he produced and choreographed many ballets as well as designing décor and costumes. He held his first art exhibition at the Theatre Art Museum – a very successful and creative period. Still fondly remembered by the dancers of that time.
After having done several guest choreographies in Amsterdam and Tel-Aviv and a sabbatical in the Munich countryside just painting, Alan returned to the Royal Ballet to guest teach and work with the touring company, but his directorship of ballet companies was then far ranging – Wuppertal, Bordeaux, Istanbul, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Tehran.
During Alan's Munich period, he created his first 'dance' pictures – trying to portray a sense of movement that a dancer feels when given steps to perform. It wasn't until Alan was in Wuppertal that these pictures began to take shape. He created these extraordinary compositions, which he named: 'Choreographics'. When preparing choreography for a ballet, he would sketch the movement he wished the dancers to emulate – the dancers comprehending immediately. A partnership grew between Julia, a dancer in his ballet company and Alan, resulting in marriage, which lasted until his death last year. Julia has seen through the years how his highly original style of depicting movement in dance has developed. She has been much involved with them, organising his exhibitions, which have been hugely successful, many being sold over the years - several famous people own one or two.
Over the ensuing years Alan and Julia took over the Wessex School of Dancing, producing shows and courses. Alan did a couple of productions for Bournemouth & Boscombe Light Opera and exhibitions.
Julia is now left with many of Alan's paintings, not only of the dance, (choreographics) but, landscapes, caricatures, harlequins (commedia del arte type characters) etc. Some of these pictures hang on the walls, but many are in folders, not seeing the light of day. It was through a chance encounter and a mutual friend that Julia met Paul Watts, the proprietor of The ARThouse Gallery and a meeting was arranged for Paul to view Alan's work. Having no knowledge of what to expect, Paul was bowled over by Alan's art work and decided to stage a one man exhibition of Alan's 'Choreographics' opened by Avril Owton MBE who was Business Woman of the Year 2008. Avril who was a dancer herself has valued the friendship of both Alan and Julia over the years.
# Modern British Artists
Earth Dancers 1991
Tour en l'air Cambrai
Pirouette en dehors en attitude 1978
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James Lawrence Isherwood
Rene le Forestier
David B McKay
Sir William Nicholson
Victor Pasmore RA
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