Valerie Taylor-Barnes, acclaimed ballet dancer of the Royal Ballet and lifelong arts philanthropist, died of natural causes November 17, 2019. She was 88 years old.
The widow of former New York Times and New York Post theatre and dance critic, Ms. Taylor-Barnes spent her latest years working for The Clive Barnes Foundation, which she established in 2009. The Foundation was best known for its annual Clive Barnes Awards, recognizing and cultivating the next generation of great performing artists in theatre and dance. Winners received a $5,000 prize in financial support of their artistry, as well as mentorship from Ms. Taylor-Barnes.
The awards specifically look for breakout performances by unknowns. Their track record over the years indicates an impeccable knack for spotting future stars: Nina Arianda won in 2010 and went on to win a Tony Award in 2012 for her work in Venus in Fur. In 2011, Annaleigh Ashford was named a finalist for her work in Off-Broadway's Rent, and she too is now a Tony Award winner and star of stage and screen. Rob McClure caught the committee's eye for his work in Chaplin; he was nominated for a Tony for that same role and is now a Broadway mainstay, originating roles in shows like Beetlejuice and the upcoming Mrs. Doubtfire. Phillipa Soo earned a nod from the Foundation in 2013, having made a name for herself with The Great Comet before headlining Hamilton. Each one was chosen by Ms. Taylor-Barnes and her committee.
Before her death, she had already begun planning the 10th annual ceremony, to take place April 6, 2020.
The Foundation received the Douglas Watt Award for Editorial Excellence in Dance and Musical Theatre at the inaugural Chita Rivera Awards in 2017; Ms. Taylor-Barnes accepted the honor on the organization’s behalf.
Ms. Taylor-Barnes was also a formidable performer in her own right. She began dancing at the age of three and trained with Sadler’s Wells (now the Royal Ballet) at the age of 16. She joined the company the following year. Among her favorite roles were the Miller’s Wife in Leonide Massine’s Le Tricorne and the Prelude in Les Sylphides, opposite husband-and-wife pair Sergei Griforiev and Lubov Tchernicheva. She also danced in the premieres of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella and The Two Pigeons.
Ms. Taylor-Barnes taught dance, which led her to New York, where she taught at institutions such as LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, Martin Luther King Jr. High School, Marymount Manhattan College, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. She believed fervently in the cultivation of younger generations of artists and art lovers, taking time for long conversations and luncheons to get to know the person behind the art. She hand-picked the committee for her Foundation, emphasizing her personal touch.
She is survived by family members Edward Cartwright, Jacqueline Cartwright, Phillipa Cartwright, Celia Senzar, Katherine Verner, Christopher Barnes, Samuel Clarence, and Maya Johansen. A memorial service will take place in 2020. Donations in Taylor-Barnes’ honor can be made to The Clive Barnes Foundation.