LOS ANGELES -- Yvonne Mounsey, who danced major roles for George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins with the New York City Ballet in the 1950s and went on to found an influential West Coast ballet school, has died. She was 93.
Mounsey died of cancer Saturday at her Los Angeles home, said her daughter, Allegra Clegg of Los Angeles.
Mounsey danced with the City Ballet from 1948 to 1958, rising from soloist to principal dancer. For Robbins, she originated the roles of the Queen in "The Cage," the Harp in "Fanfare" and the Wife in "The Concert."
Mounsey was born Yvonne Louise Leibbrandt on a South African dairy farm. She began taking ballet lessons at 7, and later studied and danced in England. She performed around the world with various companies.
She was with the Original Ballet Russe when Balanchine saw her in New York in 1940. He created a part for her in his 1941 "Balustrade."
She became stranded in Cuba in 1941 when the other dancers on tour went on strike and the company disbanded. She survived by becoming a successful nightclub dancer.
After her New York City Ballet years, she helped co-found a ballet company in South Africa.
In 1966, Mounsey moved to Los Angeles and opened the Westside School of Ballet, teaching the neoclassical Balanchine technique, which has become a signature style of ballet in America.
Mounsey never turned away a student, her daughter said. " 'Whatever you do,' she would say to you, 'Do it 110 percent, whether you're the housekeeper or the bus driver or a doctor,' " Clegg said.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include two stepsons.