Leland Windreich – a rare breed of writer who established himself as an important dance historian and critic – uncovered one of Canada’s great art stories: the Vancouver-Ballet Russe connection. Starting in 1938, seven dancers who had trained in the small west coast city joined one of two famed Russian companies: Colonel de Basil’s Ballet Russe or Serge Denham’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.
Lee, as he was known to friends, died in Vancouver in July at age 85, still engaged in the art form he loved, though mostly via the internet due to limited mobility. His lifetime involvement with dance began as a boy in San Francisco devouring movie musicals starring Eleanor Powell or Ruby Keeler. By the time he immigrated to Canada in 1961 (for a University of Victoria librarian’s post), ballet was his passion.
Several of Windreich’s countless reviews and articles are collected in his book, Dance Encounters. Windreich also edited Dancing for de Basil: Letters to her parents from Rosemary Deveson 1938-1940, covering the time Deveson toured with the Ballet Russe under the stage name Natasha Sobinova. In June Roper: Ballet Starmaker, Windreich wrote about the teacher who created the hothouse where those seven dancers bloomed. These books, published by Dance Collection Danse, are Lee Windreich’s legacy, his gift to the dance community.