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Auction Lot Sparks Mystery over Bellairs Studio of Dance and Drama Sculpture

Published on: 12 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 16 Jun, 2023

By David Rose

A bronze sculpture of a dancer, being sold by auction, looks very similar to one that once graced the Milbrook building of Bellairs Studio of Dance and Drama (later Guildford School of Acting).

Bellmans auctioneers of Billingshurst in West Sussex is selling the 74cm high bronze, La Danseuse Nattova, on Tuesday, June 20, with an estimate of £2,000 to £4,000.

La Danseuse Nattova, being sold by auctioneers Bellmans  on Tuesday, June 20, with an estimate of £2,000 to £4,000.

On the auctioneer’s website it reveals the artist who sculpted it was Serge Yourievitch (1876-1969), who was born in Paris to a noble Russian / Belarusian family. He once served as a lord-in-waiting to Tsar Nicholas II before training as a sculptor under Auguste Rodin.

It adds that Yourievitch was famous predominantly for bronze garden statuary and portraits of eminent individuals including Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Hardy.

And interestingly, it adds that in the 1950s Yourievitch became a professor at the Guildford School of Art.

Beatrice ‘Bice’ Bellairs (1910-1991) founded, with fellow dancer Pauline Grant, the Grant Bellairs School of Dance and Drama in west London in 1935.

It appears the school relocated to Guildford either at the start of the Second World War or in 1945, becoming Bellairs Studio of Dance and Drama in 1961, and then the Guildford School of Acting, in 1964.

Bice was the choreographer for the Pageant of Guildford in 1957, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Loseley Park in 1965, with pageant master, director and designer, David Clarke.

Her pupils took part in many productions in and around Guildford.

Bice Bellairs and her dancers with David Clarke rehearsing a Midsummer Night’s Dream at Loseley Park in 1965.

The picture here, from the book Images of Guildford by Graham Collyer and David Rose (Breedon Books 1998) shows Bice and David conducting a rehearsal of girls in the fairy group of the production.

Bice’s original Guildford studio, where thousands of young dancers were trained, was in Millbrook, opposite the Town Mill, with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre close by.

Bellairs Studio of Dance and Drama, Millbrook, Guildford, pictured in 1967 and uploaded to the Facebook page Guildford Past & Present by David Godden.

The studio had a large sculpture (or statue) of a dancer on a plinth in front of railings on the first floor of the building. The picture seen above was posted on Ben Darnton’s Facebook page Guildford Past & Present by David Godden in January 2022, who stated the photo dated to 1967.

It looks identical to Yourievitch’s 74cm bronze up for auction, but who made the one at Bellairs’ studio and what was it made of?

The sculpture or statue cropped and enlarged from David Gedden’s photo.

Was it modelled on Yourievitch’s, did he have any involvement, given that he was a professor at Guildford School of Art, which was to the rear of Guildford Technical College, off Stoke Road?

Replies to the post on Guildford Past & Present include one that says Bice’s daughter made it.

According to a story in the Surrey Advertiser in 2011 about the last production by students at the Bellairs Playhouse in Millmead Terrace, “the drama school operated in this building [Bellairs Playhouse] and in other locations [presumably Millbrook included] in the town centre until 2009, when the performance training and administration moved to its new premises on the University of Surrey campus.”

However, what happened to the sculpture / statue on the Millbrook building? Other suggestions on the Facebook page claim it went to a house in Hascombe, or was stolen!

If you know for certain, please leave a reply in the box below.

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Responses to Auction Lot Sparks Mystery over Bellairs Studio of Dance and Drama Sculpture

  1. Julie Howarth Reply

    June 12, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    Maybe she took a fancy to “Tunsgate Man”?! Or vice versa.
    Where is he?

  2. Jan Messinger Reply

    June 13, 2023 at 1:01 am

    Would Charles Brooking know?

  3. Peter Blow Reply

    June 14, 2023 at 11:32 am

    I was looking through the archives of Where Is This? on this website the other day and it was mentioned in the comments.

    Someone said it had been taken away for repair, but it never returned.

    Editor’s response: No, after a long run it was just discontinued.

  4. Carol Norris Reply

    August 6, 2023 at 10:54 am

    Can’t remember the details of the story but Bice’s world famous sculptor daughter, Lorne McLean, would. The statue may well have been moved to Bice’s house at Hascombe. I recall meeting “Princey” at some time when I began my long career of involvement with Bellairs School of Dance & Drama and Guildford School of Acting.

    I also recall concern about the statue being too heavy for the frail building on which it was perched – amazing that building is still standing.

  5. Dianne James Reply

    February 10, 2024 at 2:33 pm

    When I was a student in 1961, this statue was sited round the side of the building. I have a photograph taken by Surrey Advertiser when it was installed.

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