Kathleen Gorham was born in Nerrandera a small country town in New South Wales and died in Southport in Queensland (according to her son Tony Marrows). Tony refers to his mother as “Kathleen Gorham OBE”. Presumably she obtained her decoration for services to the dancing world.
[transcribed by Robert Usher-Somers from “Dance and Dancers” August 1983 issue held at Westminster Central Reference]
Kathleen Gorham, former ballerina of the Australian Ballet, died at Surfers’ Paradise, Melbourne, on 30 April. She was 51, and had been in poor health for a few months but continued working as a dance teacher until the very day of her death. Born in Sydney, she joined the Borovansky Ballet when only 14, and the year after that joined Ballet Rambert during their long Australian tour of 1948. She travelled to England in 1949 and danced with Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris in Carmen among other works, then undertook further studies at the Sadler’s Wells School before joining Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet (1951-2) and the Cuevas Ballet (1953). After that she returned home in 1954 and became a leading dancer with Borovansky until his death. During 1959-62 she appeared as guest ballerina with various European companies, returning in 1962 for the foundation of the Australian Ballet. In 1966 she decided to stop dancing and started a school in Melbourne, later joining her former fellow-ballerina Marilyn Jones at the National Theatre Ballet School. A small, vivacious and dramatic dancer, she excelled in roles demanding humour or passion but also successfully danced the classics, her Giselle being especially admired. She was appointed OBE in 1968.
[transcribed from Cohen’s Encyclopedia of DANCE held at the Westminster Central Reference library]:
GORHAM, KATHLEEN (born 20 December 1932 in Sydney, New South Wales, died 30 April 1983 in Gold Coast, Queensland), Australian dancer. One of Australia’s most widely loved ballerinas noted for her dramatic abilities and her flashing technique, Kathleen Gorham danced for twenty years at home and in Europe. Sent to dancing and elocution classes by her family, she came to the notice of Leon Kellaway who, under his given name of Jan Kowski, had been a member of the Pavlova and Spessivtseva companies that visited Australia.
Kellaway recognized Gorham’s special gifts and brought her to the notice of Edouard Borovansky, who engaged her for his company at the age of fifteen, when she was still a child in experience and physique. Later in the year the company went into recess, and Gorham joined the Ballet Rambert for the rest of its Australian tour, under the name Ann Somers.
When the Rambert company left Australia in 1949, Gorham traveled with them, joining Roland Petit’s Ballets de Paris shortly after her arrival in Europe. She came back to Australia in 1951 to perform with the Borovansky Ballet but soon left again. During 1952 and 1953 she danced in London with the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet and in Europe with Le Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas.
In 1954 she returned to Australia as Borovansky’s ballerina. In that same year she was chosen by John Cranko to dance Poll in his restaging of Pineapple Poll for the Borovansky Ballet. She continued to dance for Borovansky and as guest artist for various European companies until she became a principal with Peggy van Praagh’s Aus
tralian Ballet in 1962, where she danced a wide range of roles for four years.
These years were the culmination of her dancing career. Her versatility was displayed in Giselle, her style and finesse in The Sleeping Beauty, and her natural ability as an actress in new works, notably Robert Helpmann’s The Display. She also danced the Moon Goddess in Helpmann’s delicate Japanese-inspired ballet Yugen, and the title role in a revival of his violent Elektra. She also appeared as an actress on stage and television.
After her retirement, she opened a school in Melbourne, and was co-director of the National Theatre Ballet School in Melbourne between 1974 and 1981. She continued to teach until her death.
Pask, Edward H. Ballet in Australia: The Second Act, 1940-1980. Melbourne, 1982.
Pask, Edward H. “Kathleen Gorham, 1932—1983.” Dance Australia, no. 13 (September—November 1983): 8—12.
Potter, Michelle. “Dance Greats: Kathleen Gorham.” Dance Australia no. 85 (August—September 1996): 33.
GEOFFREY WILLIAM HUTTON
Amended by Michelle Potter
Last updated 8th November 2010