Alex Martin (1921 - 2006)

 (Surname Thomson at Holloway)





Alex Martin (surname Thomson at Holloway School)a dancer, artistic director, choreographer was born on September 18, 1921 in London. He attended Holloway School from 1936-38 and as a teenager, Alex saved the money he earned as a clerk for a securities broker to pay for ballet classes. He studied with Molly Lake, Margaret Saul and Vera Volkova in London in 1942. He became the lead dancer of the Ballet Guild between 1942-1946 and a dancer at the Sadler's Wells and the Royal Ballet, 1946-1949. He was solo dancer at the St. James Ballet & London Metropolitan Ballet, London and Paris, 1949-1950. Alex was solo dancer in the ballet Brigadoon, that was performed in Capetown and Johannesburg, South Africa, 1950-1951. He also appeared in various films including 'Knights of the Round Table' 1953, 'The Red Shoes' 1948, 'Stage Fright' 1950 & 'Invitation to the Dance' 1956 and danced at historic events such as the coronation of Prince Rainier of Monaco. He moved to the US in 1953 and became a teacher at a ballet studio in Minneapolis 1953-1954, before Ruth Pryor brought him to Cleveland in 1954 where he taught at Ballet Russe. He founded the Ballet Guild of Cleveland, the city's first nonprofit touring semiprofessional ballet group in 1958 and taught numerous Cleveland-area teenagers who leaped into professional dance careers. He opened his own studio the Cleveland Ballet Center 1958 and Cleveland Institute of Dance 1962, where he taught young people the basics of ballet and preached the doctrine of discipline. 'When a dancer performs, it doesn't matter if his feet hurt or if his mother just died. His duty to the audience comes first. Nothing outside can matter'. Although he gained a reputation as a hard taskmaster, Alex showed compassion for promising dancers who couldn't afford to pay for his classes. "I am grateful to Mr. Martin for the full scholarship he offered me in exchange for cleaning the sinks and toilets in the dressing rooms," said Catherine Turocy, artistic director and co-founder of the New York Baroque Dance Company. "As this was also one of my Saturday chores at home, it seemed like a small price to pay. Coming from a family of eight children, I know we could not have afforded lessons otherwise." Some of his students received scholarships from the Ford Foundation and the ballet program continued due to the National Endowment for the Arts and other grants. The company did something in the region of 300 performances, and many productions were put on in poor neighborhoods, especially for the children. By 1974, Alex gave up the struggle of trying to keep the Ballet Guild financially on its feet. This led a core group of Ballet Guild board members to take steps to establish a professional dance company, the Cleveland Ballet. Alex was a prominent figure in the development of dance in Cleveland, many of his students became established dancers, and Alex's Ballet Guild of Cleveland became the precursor to the Cleveland Ballet. In his later years, Alex wrote reviews for dance publications in England. Alex died in January 2006 at University Hospital Hanna House, Cleveland, Ohio aged 84 years. Alex left no immediate surviving relatives. RH