Yvonne Mounsey Dies at 93, New York City Ballet Star


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The dance (particularly ballet) world has now lost another great icon. Yvonne Mounsey, who was known for her involvement with the New York City Ballet passed away this past Saturday (September 29th, 2012).

Yvonne Mounsey (born as Yvonne Louise Leibbrandt) was a talented ballet dancer from Pretoria, South Africa. Mounsey got involved with ballet in 1939, when she joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and de Basil's Original Ballet Russe (1940-1941). While involved in her early ballet career, she went under the stage name of "Irina Zarova."

Also during her early ballet career, she was noticed by George Balanchine, who was a well-known ballet choreographer and later founded the New York City Ballet. Balanchine noticed her talent, and created a dance part for her in Stravinsky's Balustrade (1941). From here on, Mounsey's professional ballet career began to take flight, and later joined Balanchine at his company in Mexico City in 1945.

Mounsey joined the New York City Ballet in 1948, and performed various roles in well-known ballet concerts, such as:

  • "The Cage" (1951)
  • "Swan Lake" (1951)
  • "The Nutcracker" (1954)
  • "The Concert" (1956)

In 1958, Mounsey resigned from the New York City Ballet and returned to South Africa. She then later co-founded the Johannesburg City Ballet (renamed later to the "Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal" / PACT). She also co-founded the Westwide School of Ballet in 1967 after she moved back to America and situated in California in 1966.

On September 29th of 2012, Yvonne Mounsey passed away after losing a long battle with cancer at the age of 93.