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*The birth of Julie Felix is celebrated on this date in 1958. She is a retired Black British ballerina and teacher.
Having grown up in Ealing, west London, in the 60s, Felix knew about racial distinction. She did not often notice any faces that weren’t white in the neighborhood or at college, she says. After her mother and father had met on a bench in Hyde Park, her mom’s household disapproved. “They stated: ‘When you marry that man, we’re going to disown you.’ And my mum simply stated: ‘Properly, truthful sufficient, I nonetheless need to marry him.’” Her father, who worked as a foreman at the Hoover factory, was quite the charmer, said Felix. “He was the proudest man.” Her mother consistently supported her art based on her work ethic and love of dance.
In 1977, she was offered a contract with the Dance Theater of Harlem (DTH). DTH’s sense of purpose aligned with Felix’s own. Life in the US put British racism into perspective, says Felix. In her first week in New York, she witnessed a young Black man being shot dead in the street by two white police officers for shoplifting. A touring performance in Mississippi in 1978 had to be canceled because the Ku Klux Klan staged a protest outside the theatre, in white hoods, burning cross and all. “No words can describe that feeling,” she says. She stayed with the company for ten years, earning her place as a soloist and touring the US and beyond (including a satisfying return to the Royal Opera House).
Also, during this time, she danced with Lionel Richie to All Night Long at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics closing ceremony; visitors to her shows included Michael Jackson and Prince. By 1986, aged 30, Felix was beginning to feel the physical toll of ballet life. She also missed home. She returned to the UK and became a teacher and remedial coach for Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, first in London, then in Birmingham, where the company relocated when it became Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1990. She married and had three daughters (none of whom followed in their mother’s footsteps).
Felix is now based in the West Midlands of England and serves as the head of dance at St. Martin’s Girls’ School. Her story is documented in the biography Brickbats & Tutus.