Antony Tudor - Muses

Like any great artist, Tudor had several “muses” throughout his career. Maude Lloyd, Hugh Laing and Nora Kaye inspired Tudor’s creativity and played important roles in his life. (Diana Adams and Sallie Wilson have sometimes been identified as additional muses but ballets were not created specifically for them.)


Born in Capetown, South Africa in 1908, Maude Lloyd would become the first of Tudor’s muses. Antony Tudor was the first person she met upon re-joining Marie Rambert’s Ballet Club for its inaugural season in 1930. He came up to her and said “You must be Maude from Capetown. I’m Antony!” Though she denied being his muse, history would say otherwise. She was the principal ballerina in most of Tudor’s early ballets during his time in London and his creative process involved creating roles with her in mind. They became a duo right from the start and when Hugh Laing joined the company a year later, the three of them were inseparable. Although she retired shortly after marrying Nigel Gosling in 1939, she remained a lifelong friend and confidant of Tudor. He wrote to her often and stayed with her on return visits to London. After retiring from the stage, she became a dance critic and author (with her husband) under the pseudonym Alexander Bland. She died in 2004 at the age of 96.

Maude Lloyd
Maude Lloyd in Gala Performance - 1940
Photo: Gordon Anthony


Hugh Laing was born Hugh Skinner, in Barbados, in 1911. Born to English parents, Hugh grew up playing tennis, swimming, diving, climbing trees and other outdoor activities while growing up in Barbados. By the time he arrived in England, his sculpted, athletic body caught the attention of Marie Rambert while visiting the studio with his mother. With male dancers being in short supply, the art student soon found himself thrust into a new career. Extraordinarily handsome, he soon became a much sought after performer.

Tudor’s infatuation with Laing was immediate and the two became lovers and lifelong companions. They soon moved into a small “flat” together and their relationship can best be described as tumultuous. Laing was famous for his temper tantrums and Tudor egged him on with his sharp wit and denigrating sarcasm. Their volatility was evident both privately and publicly.

Hugh Laing
Hugh Laing in Pillar of fire.
Photo courtesy of The New York Public Library

Tudor created many of his most famous ballets with Laing as the male lead. Like Tudor, Laing started his career late, but his athletic ability, theatrical timing and powers of characterization more than compensated for this and Tudor dedicated himself to training him. The synergistic result was a working relationship that lasted for decades and a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Hugh traveled with Tudor to New York and became a world class dancer despite his lack of technical skill. His performance as the Young Man in Pillar of Fire is legendary for its intensity, most notably his famous last “walk” across the stage, away from a prostrate Hagar. It was Tudor’s opinion that no one ever equaled Hugh’s performances in any of the roles Tudor created for him.

Although their intimate relationship ended in 1945, Tudor and Laing remained close companions for the rest of their lives, even during Laing’s seven year marriage to Diana Adams. Laing also had a part in the movie Brigadoon. He died of cancer a year after Tudor at the age of 77, on May 11, 1988.


While Maude Lloyd did not accompany Tudor and Laing to New York, Tudor soon found a new collaborator and muse in Nora Kaye. In 1920, Nora Koreff was born to Russian parents in Brooklyn New York. After Americanizing her name (bucking the trend of American dancers assuming Russian names), she eventually became known as the Duse of Dance, named after acclaimed actress Elenora Duse. Although their initial meeting was less than stellar, with Kaye proclaiming she would never work with “that Englishman”, the two nonetheless began working together almost immediately.

Once again, there was a trio, with Kaye taking the place of Lloyd, living with Tudor and Laing in hotels, ordering in and playing mahjong. Kaye became a project for Tudor. He taught her what to read, what to wear and how to view life. Tudor created parts for her in some of his most famous ballets, including Pillar of Fire and Amercanized restagings of Lilac Garden, Dark Elegies and Gala Performance. They remained close friends long after their working relationship ended.

Nora Kaye eventually became a choreographer in her own right and went on to act in and produce films. She married Isaac Stern in 1948, divorced a year later, and then married Herbert Ross in 1959. Nora Kaye died two months before Tudor, on February 28th, 1987 at the age of 67. At her Funeral, Tudor, usually emotionally guarded, openly wept for his longtime friend.

Nora Kaye
Nora Kaye in Jardin aux Lilas.

Photo courtesy of American Ballet Theatre
Photo: Cecil Beaton


(Adapted with permission from Undimmed Lustre by Murial Topaz )


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