Eve was born in Leicester in 1929. Her father was a professional artist and her mother a singer and pianist. Eve showed her artistic flair in needle work, pottery and photography, but at the age of five after going to a ballet in Leeds with her mother Eve announced, ‘That’s what I am going to do’ She started dancing when she was nine and at the age of 12 auditioned for the Cone-Ripman school. During the war years the school moved several times starting in Maidenhead, then to North Wales and finally ending at Tring Park Hertfordshire. At 16 Eve moved to the Cone-Ripman London School. After completing her training, she became a founder member of the Anton-Dolin Ballet. Later known as London Festival Ballet, then English National Ballet Company where she continued to have a close connection with all of her life.
In 1950, Eve was persuaded by Grace Cone to come and teach for them at the Cone-Ripman Schools. Giving no thought to her own dancing career, Eve willingly went into to teaching.
Eve taught the ballet teacher David Howard, a guru for many famous American dancers at ABT, San Francisco, Joffrey Ballet and New York City Ballet. David taught generations of dancers and attributed many of his ideas and inspiration to his early work with Eve. Eve’s long association with Ben Stevenson of Houston Ballet meant that for many years she taught for the company and its academy for over 30 years.
It was Eve that suggested that London Festival Ballet Company use children in their productions of the Nutcracker. This started the long association held by the Arts Educational Schools that still stands to this day. Eve was given the position of Children’s ballet mistress which she held for 44 years. She was responsible for the teaching and rehearsing of all children’s roles including those of Clara and Fritz.
Eve loved the Cecchetti method and became a Cecchetti teacher and International examiner and she was also on the Cecchetti committee for 15 years. Her contribution to the Cecchetti Society was recognised in 2008 when she was awarded the Enrico Cecchetti Gold Medal. She has trained many teachers in this method and a number of her pupils currently examine today. Her inspired ports de bras and épaulement stemmed from the Cecchetti syllabi which she taught, even from her wheelchair, in later years. She would often be found in a studio in Mansion at Tring Park long after the classes had finished, working late with a couple of graduate students to help them prepare for their Diploma. She would often coach the teachers too! If you got caught by her, she wouldn’t let you go until you fully understood what she wanted you to know.
When I first started at Tring most teachers lived in so Terry Wright and I would find ourselves spending a lot of time with Eve in the evenings. We introduced her to Eastenders which she was an avid follower of and Pictionary which she took very seriously.
Time was not a concept for Eve. She would often over run her classes and the students and pianists would often miss supper, but, no-one was ever brave enough to say anything to her. She was never an early riser and there were a couple of occasions when she didn’t turn up for her first class and we would need to go and wake her up.
Eve was a gifted choreographer, very creative, rhythmical and musical. She used the music to give quality and breadth to movement which students and audiences adored. Many pianists and composers loved working with her as she pushed them to create her artistic vision.
In her later years she learnt to use a computer and mobile phone, she would often text and she also succumbed to social media and was on Facebook. She struggled a little when the ISTD went on line and she would come to me to do her exam entries. She was a stickler for getting things absolutely right and always, but always, obeyed the rule book. She took her time over everything, and you certainly needed to clear an hour or so to get things done for her.
Her crowning achievement in 2007 was the granting of an MBE for her services to classical ballet, in particular, to Tring Park School of the Performing Arts where she taught for sixty four years until her retirement in 2013.
A gala to celebrate her life’s work was held in 2016 to Eve’s great joy and happiness. She enjoyed seeing well known dancers she had taught come back to honour her. It was a true highlight for her, as was being made a Vice President of Tring Park School, her spiritual home.
In her latter years she was looked after by the fabulous staff at St David’s Nursing Home. She had a very special place in her heart for Linda who was her sole carer, confidant and travel companion on her trips to Tring every year. Linda, she spoke so very highly and fondly of you, and we all thank you for everything you did for her.
In 2021 Antony Dowson commissioned a ballet to be made in honour of Eve. Ruth Brill, one of Eve’s favourite students, choreographed this for our Encore Dance Company. Eve sponsored the entire ballet, and this will now live on in her memory as a tribute and legacy of all she did for Tring Park. Antony was able to show her a dress rehearsal of this shortly before she passed away.
Eve dedicated her whole life to classical ballet and Tring Park. She would drive her little red car from Sheringham to Tring every week and generously donated funds to help aspiring and struggling young classical dancers. She gave her life to the young and talented and for that, I know, we are all thankful. Eve had no ego, it was never about her or her achievements, it was always about the student and the art form. A rare gift today.
Eve’s legacy will live on through the countless lives she has touched during her extraordinary life. She will be greatly missed by us all as she was loved by everyone unconditionally. Sleep well Eve, heaven has gained a one in a million lady, and I am sure she will have the angels in perfect corps de ballet lines by now.
Lorraine Jones, Director of the Dance Department and Head of Dance