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Obituary for Jasmine Honoré

ON 16 June 2023 Jasmine Honoré, died in Johannesburg. Comforted by her daughter Toni, Miss Honoré, famed South African Spanish, ballet dancer, choreographer, teacher, examiner and African Dance scholar slipped away  quietly– one month short of her 99th birthday.

Born  in London in 1924, Jasmine attended school at Salisbury’s Chisipite Junior until 1932 when the Honoré family moved  to Cape Town where  eight-year-old Jasmine began ballet and Spanish dance lessons under Dulcie Howes. 

Simultaneously Jasmine studied piano at the South African College of Music, where she won two bursaries for further piano studies. Such was this talent that after matriculating  - first class with distinction in music and English - rather than choose a career as a  pianist she used her musical knowledge to develop her talents as a Spanish dance, classical ballet dancer and choreographer.  

Continuing her training under Howes, Cecily Robinson and Yvonne Blake Jasmine toured  with the UCT Company choreographing her first ballet Ritual Night in 1944 for  CT Ballet Club.

Completing her three-year ballet diploma at UCT’s Ballet School with distinction, Jasmine returned to London, for further study under Margaret Craske, Vera Volkova and Spanish Dance under  renowned Spanish dance teacher Elsa Brunelleschi.  She danced professionally with Rambert Ballet until embarking on a new career at UCT ballet school in 1948. 

As a member of staff, she taught  ballet, Spanish, and gave a well received Spanish Dance recital. She danced Prelude from Les Sylphides, Young Wife in John Cranko’s ballet Sea Change, choreographed Amor Eterno, Ariane and Corisande and Margaret of Cortona for UCT Ballet Company. 

She converted to Catholicism, married Alan Herbert and in 1962 retired from teaching to care for her growing family. For a few years the Herbert’s lived in Dublin, returning to Johannesburg, where Jasmine became a SABC critic.

Once more back in Cape Town, Jasmine took up her former post at UCT Ballet School to teach  music, art, theatre history, theory, stage lighting and choreography.  A  Cape Tercentenary Foundation bursary found  Jasmine attending courses at Essen’s Volkwangschule, London’s  Royal Ballet School,  Contemporary Dance School, John Cranko’s Stuttgart  Ballet Schule, and Spanish dance in Madrid.  

Jasmine never ceased learning and few have given Jasmine the credit she deserves for travelling alone into (the then) African Reserves to study African  dances, songs, complex rhythms, customs, and notating these for posterity.

Over and above laying foundations for formal African dance studies, Jasmine Honoré  taught “Dance is a wonderful way to learn about other people’s cultures” As my former teacher and friend Jasmine’s legacy to her students is “ to live life with honesty and integrity”.

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