Jack Carter was born on 18th August 1917 to a farming family in Shrivenham. As he grew up he had no interest in agriculture but instead was drawn to the world of dance, and in particular ballet. One of his Obituaries published in the Guardian newspaper by Mary Clarke, states that one day he took a train from Swindon to Paddington and then walked to Covent Garden. It was there that he saw the last pre-war performances of Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes. After leaving school in 1938 he went to Sadlers Well Ballet School and although he trained and performed as a dancer, his ambition was always to be a choreographer. He started by arranging dances for a local group but with the outbreak of the war in 1939 he was conscripted in to the military.
In the early 1950s Jack Carter worked with Ballet Workshop, a crucible for young choreographers which had links with Ballet Rambert. In an obituary that was published in the Independant newspaper by Nadine Meisner in 1999, it states that he arranged pieces called Echo and Narcissus, that was performed by the celebrated John Gilpin and Nathalie Krassovska and given a television showing. But Ballet Workshop folded, as did the original Ballet Russe where he had been dancing, leaving him with no work.
His choreography skills worked best for small groups on themes which looked at the human condition. He could produce light-hearted and largescale works and he made many, sometimes controversial, stagings of the well known classical ballets. But his most famous ballet, danced all over the world, was the melodramatic The Witch Boy, based on the American Ballad of Barbara Allen. His own favourite was the 1964 Agrionia which dealt with madness and murder.
Like many extrememly talented people, Jack Carter never gave in when the going got rough even though he was quoted in one obituary as saying that, "most probably thinking to throw myself in the Thames." He worked all over the world, was well known and much respected, but some commentators suggest that he never got the acclaim in the UK that he so deserved. In 1998 after being diagnosed with leukaemia, he died in a London clinic on 30th December, aged 81.
We are grateful to Isabel Rapaz de Souza from Portugal who worked with Jack Carter in London and described him as her 'Surrogate Uncle.' She had much affection for Jack and felt as though we needed to know about him.
We are always on the look-out for more information about Shrivenham and district. If you have old photos, know of historical facts, old documents (especially deeds) please contact us...
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