Katherine Ambrose

Katherine Ambrose, "Kay," author, artist, designer (b at Surrey, Eng 1914; d at London, Eng 1 Dec 1971). Between 1951 and 1962 Ambrose lived in Canada where, as friend and assistant to Celia FRANCA, she contributed her many talents to the then-fledgling NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA. Ambrose, who studied fine arts at Reading University from 1933 to 1936, and again in 1943-44 when she won awards in drama, elocution and dance, made her first mark in the world of dance as an author and illustrator of many books on dance. In 1938 she illustrated Arnold L. Haskell's book Ballet. She went on to write and illustrate books such as Ballet - to Poland (1941), Balletomane's Sketchbook (1941), Ballet-Lover's Pocket Book (1943), Ballet Impromptu (1943) and Ballet-Lover's Companion (1948), many of which became collector's items. She travelled with Ram Gopal and his Indian dance company as art- director, lecturer and dancer, after which she wrote the still definitive Classical Dances and Costumes of India (1950).

Ambrose came to Canada in 1951 when Franca, with whom she was collaborating on the book Beginners, Please! (published 1953), accepted a position as artistic director of the National Ballet. During the 1951-52 season Ambrose performed a number of design, promotional and public relations tasks for the company in an unofficial capacity. She also nurtured the inexperienced dancers, helping to heal their injuries, cooking meals for them and training them in the art of stage makeup. She joined the company officially in September 1952 as public relations officer, and a year later, as artistic adviser, designing ballets such as Swan Lake, Coppelia, Giselle and The Nutcracker. Ambrose designed and dressed over 30 ballets during times when budget constraints made it necessary to exercise her considerable ingenuity in finding the materials to "make a silk purse of a sow's ear."

After the 1961-62 season Ambrose took a sabbatical from which she never returned. Upon hearing of her untimely death, Celia Franca cabled to her surviving relatives: "Ballet world has lost one of its most talented and best loved artists."