Rex Reid - My Teacher at the Australian Dance Theatre School
Quite by chance in London a few years back, I came across some photos of Rex Reid in a pile being discarded at the Australian High Commission where I was working.
Rex had been a dance teacher of mine at the Australian Dance Theatre School in Adelaide.
He had gone to the British capital as a prodigy, like Robert Helpmann, but in the 1950's. After dancing with Festival Ballet and Ballet Rambert (second shot below - the non-partnering dancer on the left), he formed a company in South Africa with Princess Natasha Watchinadze, a Georgian who had fled the USSR with George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova in the 1920's.
I knew Natasha from dinner parties at Rex's in Adelaide. Where she always used to refer to me as the 'person who speaks French'. Natasha would come into the room in a green Chinese silk jacket and gold Arabian pantaloons, preceded by a long and very Auntie Mame-ish cigarette holder, belching smoke from her Gitane. Her face would be whitened and her lips made blood red, the colour to match long fingernail claws.
Natasha would tell of knowing Cocteau, Nijinska (whom she nursed in her final illness) and dancers of the Ballets Russes, and many luminaries of the artistic world of the period.
She was also a friend of Picasso, having a table napkin in which the artist had sketched her then extraordinary almond-shaped green eyes and incribed with the sentence 'I have been seduced by your eyes' (in French). I particularly remember a story of her time in Berlin in the 1930's. Deitrich had commented on the the princess's beautiful bone structure and Natasha told her she had achieved this by having her back teeth removed. Apparently Deitrich followed suite. At which point in the story, Natasha would open her mouth to show a full set of teeth accompanied by roars of laughter.
Rex Reid came from the old school of dance instruction where, with a rapier slashing tongue, the pedagogue would bully students into progress. I recall him correcting a port de bras - 'looks as though you are wearing earrings!!!' - the shoulders were too lifted up and tense.
The last (small) photo is of Rex at the time I knew him. He died only a few years back.