An Ambrosian approach to the Balletomane’s Sketchbook

The image is from the Balletomane’s Sketchbook by Kay or Katherine Ambrose. It is entitled “Alexander Wallewski – Maciek is dead, is dead!”. Kay Ambrose was born in Surrey 1914 and died in London on 1st December 1971.

Kay was an author, illustrator, artist and designer. She studied Fine Arts at Reading University (1933-1936) and (1943-1944) specialising in drama, elocution and dance.  Two years after her first qualification in 1936, Kay became the illustrator of Arnold L. Haskell’s book Ballet (1938).  She went on to write and illustrate others  which are said to be collectors items, such as:

  • Ballet – to Poland (1941),
  • Balletomane’s Sketchbook (1941),
  • Ballet-Lover’s Pocket Book (1943),
  • Ballet Impromptu (1943), and;
  • Ballet-Lover’s Companion (1948).

Kay Ambrose travelled with Ram Gopal and his Indian Dance Company as Art Director, Lecturer and Dancer, after which she wrote Classical Dances and Costumes of India (1950).

The following year she went to Canada (1951) and met Celia Franca, founder of the National Ballet of Canada with whom she collaborated on the book Beginners, Please! (1953). Ambrose accepted a position as Artistic Director during the 1951-1952 season. She performed a number of design, promotional and public relations tasks for the Company and nurtured the inexperienced dancers. She then became the Public Relations Officer and later, Artistic Adviser, designing ballets such as Swan Lake, Coppelia, Giselle and The Nutcracker

During her career, Ambrose designed and dressed over 30 ballets during times when budget constraints made it necessary to exercise great imagination with little material – in essence she managed to make the equivalent of “a silk purse, out  of a sow’s ear”.

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