Hall, Stanley (1917–1994)


By: Stefanie Shackleton

Type: Biography

Published: November 23, 2020

Updated: November 24, 2020


Stanley Hall, renowned ballet choreographer and dancer, was born in Birmingham, England, on June 16, 1917, to Sarah (Lang or Long) Hall and John Hall. At the age of twelve, Hall began learning ballet at what later became the Royal Ballet of London under Dame Ninette de Valois and Sir Frederick Ashton. He eventually danced in a professional ballet company in London.

During World War II Hall served in the Royal Navy. He joined the Indian Ocean Fleet “where he acquired a certificate for crossing the equator, something he treasured throughout his life and displayed in his home.” After his service, Hall rejoined his old ballet company (which became known as Sadler’s Wells Ballet). He went on to dance with Britain’s Metropolitan Ballet Company before joining the traveling dance troupe Les Ballets de Paris in London, with which he traveled to the United States. When the troupe’s performances were cancelled in the middle of the American tour, Hall decided not to return to Europe but instead spent a decade in California, where he danced in a number of Hollywood films (such as Hans Christian Andersen [1952]), Broadway musicals, and television shows. He worked with such celebrities as Agnes de Mille, Gene Kelly, Mary Martin, Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Cyd Charisse, and others. While in California, Hall taught and conducted choreography from 1926 to 1966. His credits included choreographing a production of Pirates of Penzance in 1962. He also served as artistic director of Royal Academy of Dancing Production in Southern California.

In 1966 Hall, by this time wishing to retire from performing, was offered a position as artistic director for the Austin Ballet Society where he could focus on choreography and instruction. He settled in Austin, Texas, where he took on the post of director of Austin Ballet Society, which merged with Texas Ballet Concerto and became Austin Civic Ballet (now Ballet Austin) in 1970. He also took on a professorship of ballet with University of Texas at Austin. He served as artistic director of Austin Civic Ballet until 1972 but split with the board of directors on what was openly called artistic differences. The conflict publicly centered on Hall’s decision to replace The Nutcracker in December 1971 with a production of Cinderella. Board members contended that The Nutcracker was an American (and Austin) Christmas tradition that provided a major source of annual ticket sales. Hall argued that he had chosen Cinderella (regarded as a Christmas ballet in Great Britain) for performance reasons. Some of the members close to him, however, thought the dispute may have arisen because of possible disapproval of his alleged homosexuality. Several other board members, as well as most of the dancers and a handful of instructors, left with him.

Hall and the others then formed the Austin Ballet Theatre in February 1972. The Theatre was well-known for performing every month at the Armadillo World Headquarters, a large bar and music hall in South Austin that played rock and country music on most other nights. Austin Ballet Theatre played its first show there on October 1, 1972. By 1973 the monthly shows drew up to 700 people; that number increased to more than a thousand within the decade. The shows drew large and very diverse crowds and gained a loyal following until the last show on December 7, 1980. Austin Ballet Theatre also occasionally performed at other venues such as the Paramount Theatre and the University of Texas’s Hogg Auditorium. In 1976 during the U. S. Bicentennial celebration, the group toured twenty-seven Texas towns. Hall left the Theatre in 1986 after a disagreement with the board on financial decisions, and the Theatre closed soon after when they could no longer compete with the rival Ballet Austin.

Hall was also director of Austin Ballet Academy during this period. Over three decades, he gained great renown for the training of a generation of famous dancers and was described as enigmatic, paternal, but also “an isolated man with a veneer of camp humor, a curious blend of movieland theatricality and genteel restraint.” His students described him as a friend and teacher, stating that he taught them not just ballet, but also social skills and even cooking.

Stanley Hall died on June 21, 1994, from a stroke after a fall. He was seventy-seven. He was buried in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery. In 2013 he was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

Austin American-Statesman, January 18, 1970; May 16, 1971; June 25, 1986; June 23, 1994; February 23, 1995. Austin Ballet Theatre Record Collection, Austin History Center. Kate and Carl Bergquist Papers, Austin Ballet Theatre Series (1970–1982), Austin History Center. Caroline Sutton Clark, A History of Austin Ballet Theatre at the Armadillo World Headquarters (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Woman’s University, 2016). Greg Easley Papers, Austin History Center. Suzanne Shelton, “Armadillos In Toe Shoes,” Texas Monthly, October 1973.

Categories:
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Music and Drama
  • Performing Arts
  • Peoples
  • English
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
Places:
  • Central Texas
  • Austin

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stefanie Shackleton, “Hall, Stanley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hall-stanley.

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November 23, 2020
November 24, 2020