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Paula Hinton

'She is simply the best dancer of her kind in the country.' So wrote John Percival in 1963, reviewing a performance by Paula Hinton in the ballet The Magical Being by her husband, Walter Gore. Although Hinton was by then 39 and had danced in half a dozen British companies, her name was hardly known to the general public; but her outstanding dramatic interpretations put her amongst the highest ranks of British dancers of the twentieth century.

Hinton's parents were both opera singers, and she made her stage debut as the child of Madame Butterfly. It was seeing Pavlova that set her heart on being a dancer, but she didn't start serious training until she was 16. Spotted by Andrée Howard in 1944, she was sent to Marie Rambert, who took her straight into her company. These days it would be almost unimaginable that someone coming to dance so late could make a career, let alone become a principal dancer, but Hinton, continuing her studies with such great teachers as Idzikowski and de Vos, developed a technique so strong that she could cope with anything in the repertoire; her jump was compared with those of dancers in the Bolshoi. With Rambert, she danced in Les Sylphides, in ballets by Ashton, and took the lead in the legendary Lady into Fox - a role created by Sally Gilmour, another dramatic dancer who was a strong influence. She went with Rambert on their long, long Australian tour, and really came to notice in 1948, when she danced the lead in Gore's new ballet, Winter Night.

Hinton's repertoire included a fine Giselle and roles in Rambert's Tudor ballets - and she even danced Odette. Ultimately, though her fame rests on the many roles - more than 20 - which Gore created for her over the years. She danced in the companies he formed and led, most notably for his London Ballet - a company which had a sadly short life in the Sixties but is remembered for its strongly dramatic repertoire (including The Magical Being - 'a kind of concerto for dramatic ballerina and male ensemble', and one of Gore's best-known works, Night and Silence). Because she never joined one of the big, stable companies, though, Hinton had to spend a large part of her career abroad, dancing often in Holland and for a time in Frankfurt. She returned to England to appear with Northern Dance Theatre as a guest in the early seventies.

Paula Hinton died in 1996. In a different environment she might have achieved the fame and acclamation of an English Norah Kaye; as it was, her story has to be searched out from the pages of the dance periodicals of the time - but it is a story well worth discovering and one that should not be forgotten.

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