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Ballet master Basil Thompson dies

Basil Thompson, an internationally acclaimed ballet master on sabbatical from the University of Iowa, died Tuesday in Lynchburg, Va., of sudden cardiac arrest. He was 67.

Thompson, trained by the Sadlers Wells Ballet School in London, was a former soloist with the American Ballet Theatre in New York and former artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet.

He also was a former ballet master of the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet, and only recently had reconstructed “Petrouchka” for the Joffrey’s Nureyev Tribute.

“Basil brought joy, vigor and dedication to his work as a ballet master, teacher and coach,” Gerald Arpino, founder and artistic director of the Joffrey, said Tuesday. “He knew the art of ballet thoroughly and lovingly shared it with all of us.”

Alan Sener, chairman of the University of Iowa dance department, said he had last seen Thompson at a performance of “Petrouchka” last week.

“I sat one row behind his family, where I watched him dance all the parts from his seat,” Sener said.

He said the university had lost a tremendous asset in Thompson.

“He provided a very valuable bridge between the professional field and academe. He was loved by the students and he provided an exuberance, a sense of vitality and a love of life, which he brought to both his teaching and his work on stage,” Sener said.

Thompson began his performance career with the Covent Garden Opera Ballet. In 1955, he transferred to the Sadlers Wells Ballet Co., now the Royal Ballet. He joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1960. In 1967, he joined the Joffrey as ballet master, working closely with Robert Joffrey at a time when the company was at its creative peak.

He became ballet master of the Milwaukee Ballet in 1981 and became the company’s artistic director in 1995. Thompson joined the faculty at Iowa in the spring of 2000.

Survivors include his wife, Kitty Carroll, daughter Audrey and sons Edward and Colin. Funeral arrangements were pending.