Ballet dancer

Tributes to dancer and ballet teacher John Dowson

11:42 am March 30, 2022

10:45 a.m. March 31, 2022

Ballet teacher and inspirational dancer John Dowson, who made a name for himself on stage before teaching at St Ives and Hartford, has died aged 88.

Nicknamed Mr D by his students, John had a brilliant career before choosing to devote his life to teaching ballet to children.

His passion for ballet seeped into his teaching and his ability to spot the potential in his students was unparalleled as he helped propel many into leading roles.

Many of his students teach today, and three of his children work in similar theatrical endeavors, ensuring that his tremendous legacy will live on forever.

However, things could have turned out differently for John, who at age nine was tasked with taking his five-year-old sister Anne to ballet lessons to correct a foot problem.

The teacher, Mrs Stephenson, urged him to join, giving him a chance to train for free and saw the same potential in John that he saw in his own students until his dying days.

John Dowson teaching during one of his ballet lessons.
– Credit: Charlotte Buttercase

John soon began touring with the Pavinov Ballet Company from age 15 to 18 until he was called up for National Service at RAF Brampton, enjoying the area so much he would later decide to return.

Before that, he completed his service and auditioned for a role in a London musical production called “Love from Judy” and got the part.

He performed in various musicals until a company called The Masque offered him a return to ballet, where he met his late wife, Doreen.

John and Doreen eventually married and moved to Hartford, jointly starting their ballet school in 1969.

John would strike the perfect balance among his students, incorporating his military style to ensure discipline while exuding his funny, larger-than-life personality for his students to have fun and thrive on.

John will be sorely missed by all, as evidenced by the vast support received from mums, students and dancers alike, as all that work, effort and love he put into ballet school came back to him over the course of of his last years.

John’s funeral will take place at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, St Ives on April 13 from midday.