Moira Shearer (published 1982)

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Moira Shearer (published 1982)


Shearer talks about her first contact with Swan Lake at age 11 at the Sadler’s Walls ballet school. She was one of the singers and they only performed once or twice a year. She also discusses learning the title role in Giselle, and the difficulty dancing in George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial.

Biographical note:

Shearer was born in Scotland in 1926. She began her ballet training in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and continued it in London. In 1942 she joined the corps of the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet (now known as the Birmingham Royal Ballet) and created many roles there in collaboration with choreographer Frederick Ashton. In 1948 she starred in The Red Shoes, a retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson folktale of a young woman tricked into a destructive dance by a demonic pair of shoes. The film is now recognized as a classic of British cinema that influenced many other portrayals of classical dance in film. Shearer left the Sadler's Wells company in 1952 to pursue an acting career. At the time of this interview, she was living in Edinburgh with her family.


Pratt SILS 665-01, Barbara Newman

Date Created

October 12, 1979



Access Rights

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Is Part Of

Newman, B. (1982). Striking a balance: Dancers talk about dancing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Newman, B. (1992). Striking a balance: Dancers talk about dancing. New York: Limelight Editions.




Interviews recorded on cassette by Barbara Newman

Rights Holder

Barbara Newman, Estate of Moira Shearer

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Audio Cassette Tape

Digital Format


Digital Master

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Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps/44.1 kHz


Barbara Newman


Moira Shearer, 1926-2006


Edinburgh, Scotland

Additional content

"Everyone knows that Moira Shearer is the gifted, beautiful redhead in a film about the world of ballet called The Red Shoes. Her name and foot are even imprinted in the cement in front of New York's Bijou Theatre, where The Red Shoes opened in 1948. Many people might never have discovered ballet without that film, and many others might never have discovered the dancer in themselves. But despite her cinematic assurance, Moira Shearer was not a starlet who happened to have a knack for flashy toe-dancing. She was a ranking ballerina of the Sadler's Wells Ballet, whose classical reputation would have been secure if she'd never put her feet or face on film. Shearer packed a lifetime of artistic achievement into a decade, and the facts of her career easily eclipse any fiction. By coincidence, she danced five roles that the legendary Tamara Karsavina had originated for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe -the female role in the Bluebird pas de deux, the Waltz in Les Sylphides, Columbine in Le Carnaval, the Young Girl in Le Spectre de la Rose, and Giselle. Before her debut as Giselle, Shearer sought out Karsavina to talk over the role. Their conversation and Shearer's subsequent performances brought the past to vibrant life in the present and forged a lasting link between generations. I hoped that her conversation with me might forge another" Barbara Newman (1982).




“Moira Shearer (published 1982),” Dance Dialogues: Interviews by Barbara Newman, 1979-Present, accessed August 10, 2022,

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