With determination, perseverance and complete commitment, she built her career as a dancer, teacher, and director to become one of the most admired leaders of the dance community, in Australia, in the United Kingdom and around the world. Gailene lived her life with integrity. She was charming, vibrant, and seemed forever young. Her early death this year, aged only 68, shocked the dance world.
Born in Ballarat in January 1946 she began dance classes aged 7 but the following year contracted polio and spent 18 months in hospital in an iron frame. She was determined to recover, and miraculously she did, only to suffer misfortune again when she sustained major injuries in a car crash aged 14. Nevertheless, she recovered sufficiently within three months to successfully pass her Intermediate Royal Academy of Dance exam.
When she was 16 Gailene became a founding member of the Australian Ballet but after nine months was given leave of absence to take up a scholarship at the Royal Ballet School in London. In 1965 she re-joined the Australian Ballet where she danced for a further seven years and was promoted to the rank of principal artist. She performed with distinction in Antony Tudor’s Pillar of Fire, Robert Helpmann’s Sun Music and Perysynthion, Garth Welch’s Firebird and in the film of Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote. Along with her husband, Gary Norman, Gailene moved to Canada where she danced for three years as a principal of the National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
In 1977 the couple returned to the Australian Ballet but the following year, after their daughter, Lisa, was born, Gailene began her illustrious teaching career, first at the National Theatre Ballet School, then the Victorian College of the Arts, and from 1990 as the director of the Australian Ballet School.
In 1997 Gailene was awarded the Order of Australia for services to ballet and two years later was headhunted to direct the Royal Ballet School in London. She held the post from 1999 until her death this year.
Her achievements there were many. She oversaw the building of beautiful new premises for the Upper School opposite the Royal Opera House and a major upgrade of Lower School at Richmond Park and she vastly increased the employment rate of graduates from the upper school. She was a jury member in many international ballet competitions and led the juries of the Prix de Lausanne and the Youth America Grand Prix as president. Last year, was awarded a CBE in London in recognition of her services to dance in Britain.
At the time of her death in April this year, David McAllister, the Australian Ballet’s artistic director, said:
Gailene Stock was a woman of great importance to the world of ballet. Her drive and passion was the inspiration for a career that touched thousands and her eye for talent and intelligence made her one of our most significant ballet exports to the world.