Tom Merrifield, dancer who performed in West End shows before becoming an acclaimed sculptor – obituary
At 16, he joined the Borovansky Ballet, founded during the war in Melbourne by Czech emigrants Edouard Borovansky and his wife Xenia, becoming the youngest principal dancer and according to Borovansky’s biographer, one of the “most striking” and capricious. the company.
He possessed a “strangely alien quality to anything he did, which succeeded in making everyone look slightly wrong,” Salter wrote, and Borovansky “violently alternated between worshiping and hating him” .
After a series of behind-the-scenes crises in Merrifield’s life (including getting a member of the corps de ballet pregnant) and failures to show up at his entrances – or sometimes not at all – he was fired, well that this caused Borovansky great personal grief (“I wish I had that little b —- r Merrifeld,” he often said).
Merrifield arrived in London in 1956 and, leaving Giselle and Les Sylphides behind, quickly became a star of West End shows such as West Side Story (as the younger “Jet”, Baby John: Her Majesty’s Theater, 1958-61) , Cinderella (Coliseum, 1958) and Showboat (Adelphi, 1971-73), as well as dancing in television shows and films including Half a Sixpence and Young Ladies of Rochfort (both in 1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968 ).
It is while treading the boards of Showboat that he undergoes the operation which leads him to transfer his knowledge of stage dance to the artist’s studio.