/ 12 March 2008

Prima ballerina Phyllis Spira dead at 64

South African prima ballerina Phyllis Spira has died at the age of 64 in Cape Town, the Cape Times reported on March 12.

She died in Claremont’s Kingsbury Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, her cousin Anthony Pam said.

Spira had been admitted to hospital earlier in the week for a routine vascular operation and complications set in after the surgery, Pam said.

Spira was 16-years-old when accepted into London’s Royal School of Ballet and within months was a soloist with the Royal Ballet Touring Company.

In 1964, she returned to South Africa to join the Pact Ballet Company.

A year later she joined Capab, which later became the Cape Town City Ballet. This was her professional home for 28 years.

She retired from active dancing in 1988 to teach and mentor young dancers.

She and her husband, Philip Boyd, ran the Dance For All Programme which is based in Gugulethu, Nyanga and Khayelitsha around Cape Town. After a foot injury in August 2007 in London, she underwent a series of operations on both legs, according to Wikipedia.

In 1991, she received South Africa’s highest civilian award for excellence, the Order of Meritorious Service Gold. She has twice received the Nederburg Award for Ballet, while she has also won the Lilian Solomon Award and the Bellarte Woman of the Year Award for the Cape in 1979. In 2003, she was named a member of the Order of the Disa for her contribution to ballet and the development of ballet in disadvantaged communities.