Kathleen Gorham

Kathleen Gorham (1932-1983), dancer, was born of English-Irish parentage in Sydney. She was convent educated and commenced ballet lessons at the age of seven, later studying under Lorraine Norton and Leon Kellaway. At the age of fifteen she was invited by Edouard Borovansky to join the Borovansky Company then in Melbourne. Despite fiery clashes from time to time, he carefully nurtured Kathleen's career and her belief 'it was my duty to dance here and help him build Australian ballet.'

In her first season dancing in such different ballets as Scheherazade, Terra Australia, Facade and Les Sylphides as well as in operetta where she danced the can can, she revealed a unique capacity to encompass dramatic, lyrical and comic roles, and a more than ordinary capacity for discipline and hard work.

She was promoted to junior ballerina in 1947 but in January 1948 the company disbanded. As 'Ann Somers' Gorham joined the Ballet Rambert then touring Australasia and travelled to England with it. There followed appearances with the Roland Petit Company in Paris, followed by study in London, then a stint with the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. In 1951 she rejoined Borovansky's new company and during 1951- 52 danced her first Giselle, the role for which she is best remembered in Australia. She created several new roles before the company again folded. She went for a season with the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas in Paris and again to Sadler's Wells.

She returned at Borovansky's request in 1954 and between 1954-61 created new roles in ballets by Paul Grinwis, David Lichine and Robert Pomie, as well as dancing principal roles in the classical ballets. John Cranko praised her Pineapple Poll.

She married Robert Pomie, a French dancer from L'Opera de Paris who joined the Borovansky company during the 1957-58 season, and retired briefly for the birth of their son Anthony. In 1959 she worked with her husband to establish the Ballet Theatre le Fran├žais in Sydney, but rejoined Borovansky for the 1959-60 season. Following his death and the disbanding of his company, she returned to Europe.

Kathleen came back in 1962 to become prima ballerina of the newly- formed Australian Ballet, where she played a significant role in the artistic development of a recognisably Australian ballet company. She reached new artistic heights in association with Robert Helpmann: he was her favourite director; Kathleen was his favourite Australian ballerina. She created the leading role in his The Display and Yugen performing, he said, 'everything that I had hoped in the role'. Her portrayal of Elektra in 1966 revealed her technique and dramatic qualities at their finest. Following the ballet's first overseas tour in 1966, Kathleen Gorham announced her retirement. She taught in Melbourne and from 1981 at Southport, Queensland. She died on 30 April 1983, survived by her son and her second husband, Barney Marrows.

Hilary Weatherburn