Much loved ballet teacher bows out

After three decades of training some of the nation's top performers, former West Australian Ballet dancer Margaret Jones is officially saying goodbye to the "graceful, beautiful and elegant" dance she has loved nearly all her life.

Sixty years after she put on her first tutu, the 63-year-old is retiring from her roles as assistant director and teacher at Subiaco's Graduate College of Dance because the time has come to choose between her profession and her family in Sydney.

College director Dawn Weller praised Mrs Jones' 31-year commitment and contribution to the ballet school and students.

Mrs Jones said the college had trained dancers who had gone on to join national and international companies, proving that Perth students were "as good as any students, anywhere".

Past students included Australian Ballet principal ballerina Leanne Stojmenov, WA Ballet principal dancers Jayne Smeulders and Fiona Evans, TV star and dancer Paul Mercurio and Tonya McCusker, the wife of the State's Governor.

Mrs Jones said continuously developing teaching methods meant ballet was ever-evolving and dancers could do "more incredible things than ever before".

"The technical standard to become a professional dancer now is much higher and harder," she said.

"Ballet is an art form; it's part of a country's culture."

Mrs Jones, who was raised in Sydney, was only three years old when she spotted a dance class while out walking along a main street with her father in 1954.

"It was a hot day and the doors to the Town Hall were open and I saw the class and wouldn't take another step, so my father took me in," she said of her fascination with the dancers.

"There were older girls dancing and I wanted to join them, so the teacher let me, and I've been dancing ever since."

Mrs Jones left high school at 16 to study ballet full-time and her determination paid off when she was accepted at the prestigious Australian Ballet School in Melbourne two years later.

Little did the then Margaret Rust know how much her life would change when, at age 20, she was accepted as a professional dancer at the WA Ballet company.

"I arrived at the airport in Perth in 1971 and, just by chance, the director of the WA Ballet got off another plane and was met by two men. I was introduced to them, and one was David, my husband-to-be. We were married in 1972," she said.

David Jones, a former ballet dancer from England who had worked with the Royal and Scottish ballet companies, was a stage manager at the WA Ballet where Mrs Jones worked as a dancer until 1978, when she fell pregnant with the first of the couple's two children.

"The enormous contribution Margaret has given to the dance community over her many years as a professional dancer and teacher has touched and inspired audiences, students, dancers and teachers," Ms Weller said.

"With her knowledge of the art form and extensive teaching experience, Margaret has provided wise and valued input over her 31 years at The Graduate College of Dance."

The West Australian

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