Tributes paid to ballet dancer and teacher John Dowson

John Dowson has passed on his theatrical talents to his granddaughter Sylvie, pictured after appearing in The Sound of Music.

John Dowson has passed on his theatrical talents through the generations to his granddaughter Sylvie, pictured after appearing in The Sound of Music. - Credit: Belle Erskine

Inspirational ballet teacher and dancer John Dowson, who made a name for himself on stage before teaching in St Ives and Hartford, has died at the age of 88.

Referred to as Mr D by his students, John had an illustrious career before choosing to dedicate his life to teaching ballet to children.

His passion for ballet seeped into his teaching, and  his ability to spot the potential in his students was unparalleled as he helped propel many into high-profile roles.

Many of his students teach today, and three of his children work in similar theatrical pursuits, ensuring his tremendous legacy will forever live on.

It all could have turned out differently for John, however, who, at nine years of age, was tasked with taking his five-year-old sister Anne to ballet classes to correct a feet problem.

The teacher, Mrs Stephenson, urged him to join in, giving him a chance to train for free and saw the same potential in John that he saw in his own students up to his last days.

John Dowson teaching during one of his ballet classes in Huntingdonshire.

John Dowson teaching during one of his ballet classes. - Credit: Charlotte Buttercase

John soon began touring with the Pavinov Ballet Company from age 15 to 18 until he was called up to National Service at RAF Brampton, enjoying the area so much he would later decide to return.

Most Read

Before then, he finished his service and auditioned for a role in a London musical production called 'Love from Judy' and got the part.

He performed in various musicals until he was offered a route back into a ballet by a company called The Masque, where he met his late wife, Doreen.

John and Doreen eventually got married and relocated to Hartford, jointly starting up their ballet school in 1969.

John would strike the perfect balance amongst his students, integrating his military style to ensure discipline whilst emanating his funny and larger than life persona for his students to have fun and flourish.

John will be sorely missed by everyone, evidenced by the vast support received from mums, students and dancers, as all that work, effort and love he put into the ballet school came flooding back to him in his last years.

John's funeral will take place at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, in St Ives, on April 13, from midday.