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Friends Remember Ballerina Nora Kaye

January 5, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ The late Nora Kaye was remembered as a dramatic ballerina and as a friend with a sense of humor by people in the dance and entertainment world at a tribute held Monday at the City Center.

Miss Kaye, who died last February, was ″the most wonderful friend, generous, understanding, perceptive, encouraging,″ said British ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn.

The two-hour program of reminiscences and performances concluded with Leonard Bernstein at the piano accompanying Stephanie Fried, who sang the last of Strauss’ ″Four Last Songs.″ Antony Tudor had used that music for the last ballet he choreographed for Miss Kaye.

Bernstein also accompanied violinist Isaac Stern for Mozart’s ″Sonata in E Minor.″ Bernadette Peters sang ″You Would Have Liked Him,″ and Barbara Cook sang ″In Buddy’s Eyes.″ Lynn Seymour danced ″Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan″ choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton. Leslie Browne and Robert Hill danced a pas de deux from ″The Leaves Are Fading″ choreographed by Tudor.

Miss Kaye was 67 when she died at the home in Los Angeles she shared with her husband of 27 years, Herbert Ross.

She had danced on Broadway, 12 years with Ballet Theater, three years with the New York City Ballet and returned to Ballet Theater. She retired from dancing in 1961 and was executive producer or co-producer with Ross, her third husband, of seven films, including ″The Turning Point.″

″She was an unusually well-balanced person, a wonderful dramatic ballerina and a wonderful woman,″ said Dame Margot. ″She was full of life; there never seemed to be sadness around her.″

Mike Nichols said that until his parents took him to see her dance the sexually repressed Hagar in Antony Tudor’s ″Pillar of Fire,″ ″I’d never known passion and intelligence could be so wedded in anyone.″

Choreographer Jerome Robbins, who thought Miss Kaye ″a giddy girl″ in the two Broadway shows they both danced in, later became her friend at Ballet Theater.

″It was fascinating to watch her become the artist she became, by concentration, perseverence and dedication,″ he said. ″Her ferocity, intensity and inner strength made the audience come to her.″

Robbins recalled dancing opposite Miss Kaye in a performance of ″Pillar of Fire″ in Pittsburgh. ″I had to step through a door and look at her. There was this creature looking back at me. She was so intense and pent up I almost backed away. It was like being caught into some other person’s tornado.″

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