Valerie and Clive Barnes. © Valerie Taylor-Barnes
Valerie Taylor-Barnes, celebrated ballerina of the Royal Ballet and champion of young artists, passed away peacefully of natural causes on November 18, 2019 at the age of 88. She was preceded in death nearly ten years to the day by her beloved husband, Clive Barnes.
Valerie began dancing at the tender age of 3 and began her training with Sadler’s Wells (later to be called the Royal Ballet) when she was 16. She quickly joined the company in 1948 at the age of 17, owing to her innate ability to quickly pick up on steps given in rapid succession.
Like many young dancers, she wanted to be a classical dancer, and found great success as a soloist dancing demi-characterère and character roles. Among her favorite roles were the Miller’s Wife in Leonide Massine’s Le Tricorne and the Prelude in Les Sylphides, opposite husband and wife pair Sergei Griforiev and Lubov Tchernicheva. Some of her fondest memories of her time with the Royal Ballet included working with esteemed choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, having danced in several of his premieres, including Cinderella and The Two Pigeons. Her time with the Royal Ballet also gifted her with a cherished, lifelong friendship with Principal Dancer Margot Fonteyn.
Ms. Taylor-Barnes also taught dance for many years, leading her to the U.S. with classes at LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, Martin Luther King Jr. High School, Marymount Manhattan College, and Dance Theatre of Harlem alongside her dear friend Arthur Mitchell.
Valerie’s legacy will live on through the continued work of The Clive Barnes Foundation, which she founded in 2009 in honor of her late husband, New York Times and New York Post theater and dance critic Clive Barnes. Both were well-known for their fervent vocal support of dancers and theater artists during their early careers, cultivating the next generation of great performing artists. Each year, the Foundation recognizes a select group of finalists in both theater and dance, with the winners receiving The Clive Barnes Award and a $5,000 award in recognition of their artistry, providing financial support for these bright young artists, in addition to Ms. Taylor-Barnes’ mentorship and unending encouragement.
Previous winners of The Clive Barnes Award, selected by Valerie Taylor-Barnes and a committee of critics and performers, include Nina Arianda, MJ Rodriguez, Rob McClure, Jonny Orsini, Russell Janzen, Alex Sharp, Gemma Bond, and Evan Ruggiero. The ceremony for 10th annual Clive Barnes Awards will take place on Monday, April 6 at 3pm.
Valerie is survived by family members Edward Cartwright, Jacqueline Cartwright, Phillipa Cartwright, Celia Senzar, Katherine Verner, Christopher Barnes, Samuel Clarence, Maya Johansen, and many dear friends.
A celebration of Valerie’s life is being planned for after the New Year. Donations in Valerie’s honor may be sent via check to: The Clive Barnes Foundation, 241 West 23rd Street #4A, New York, NY 10011.