Marilyn Jones OBE, Australia’s first new prima ballerina of The Australian Ballet is an iconic figure of dance. From her first season with the company to her last, she sustained an innately lyrical aesthetic. Marilyn’s warmth and humility in such classics as Swan Lake, Raymonda, Sleeping Beauty and, perhaps above all, Giselle with her (then) husband Garth Welch, made her a favourite with audiences nationally and abroad.
Following her performance career Marilyn taught at the National Theatre Ballet School and was artistic director of The Australian Ballet (1979-1982), where she established the Dancers Company involving final year students of The Australian Ballet School. In 1995 she became Artistic Director of the National Theatre School, and later, Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of Classical Dance at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
Today Marilyn is the artistic director of the Australian Institute of Classical Dance, which she established to produce a new Australian ballet-training syllabus. In 1996 she launched the much-valued Dance Creation competition for emerging choreographers. Marilyn continues to lead the Institute’s valuable work, which comprises workshops for students, teachers’ seminars, examinations, scholarship competitions and residencies at the Royal New Zealand Ballet School and the Houston Ballet School in Texas USA.
Born in Newcastle in 1940, Marilyn’s dedication to ballet was forged from the age of four, in the studio-in-a-garage of the legendary Tessa Maunder. In 1955 Marilyn studied with Lorraine Norton in Sydney, winning the Australian Women’s Weekly scholarship to study at the Royal Ballet School where, among her teachers, was Peggy van Praagh. After touring America with the Royal Ballet, Marilyn returned home where she joined two short-lived Sydney companies, Robert Pomie’s Ballet Francais and the Arts Council of Australia Ballet. She joined the Borovansky Ballet in 1959, dancing many leading roles. Borovansky’s sudden death led to Marilyn working again with van Praagh, who directed the company’s final year, and soon after, the new Australian Ballet.
Marilyn enthusiastically crossed genres in her repertoire of more than 50 works, from Fokine’s Les Sylphides and Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial to challenging modern works such as Glen Tetley’s Gemini, John Butler’s Night Encounter and Welch’s Othello. Subsequently, Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet and Onegin, revealed her as a mature artist of deep passion and excitation.
Marilyn has returned to the stage several times, with Sydney Dance Company, Queensland Ballet and with The Australian Ballet, to reprise the roles of Clara the Elder in Graeme Murphy’s Nutcracker, Stephen Baynes’s Requiem, and especially Of Blessed Memory, which her son Stanton Welch created for her.
One of our greatest classical dancers, Marilyn has inspired and influenced generations of young dancers throughout her distinguished life in dance.