Sonia Gaskell (1904−1974) was the founder and first artistic director of Het Nationale Ballet. Teaching in a suit and on high heels, she almost single-handedly succeeded to take dance in the Netherlands to an international level after World War II. She started her own dance studio in 1939 and in 1945 founded her first company, which was capable of both the classic romantic and modern repertories. Former pupils like Rudi van Dantzig, Marianne Hilarides and Jaap Flier — just starting their careers then — talk about the expressive woman who went to any lengths for the dance, but who died in solitude after her involuntary farewell in 1968. Her capriciousness and inability to delegate matters led to various crises and conflicts with top-ranking talents. It is only after her demise that Van Dantzig, her successor in 1968, finds out about the Jewish Gaskell’s tough childhood. During the Russian Revolution, it took her from Lithuania to the Ukraine and hence via Paris to Amsterdam, and it made her into the person she was.
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