Robert Helpmann

Sir Robert Helpmann CBE (9 April 1909 – 28 September 1986) was an Australian dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer. He was born Robert Murray Helpman (spelled with one "n") in Mount Gambier, South Australia, and was known as "Bobby" by those close to him. He was the eldest of three children of James "Sam" Murray Helpman (1881-1927), a Victorian-born stock and station agent, and his wife Mary "Maytie", née Gardiner, born in South Australia. Sam Helpman was born in Warracknabeal, Victoria, the son of Walter Stephen Helpman and Isabella Murray; Isabella's brother was Jack Murray the 23rd Premier of Victoria. Robert was educated at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, but left school at 14. From childhood, Helpman had a strong desire to be a dancer. This was an unusual ambition in provincial Australia of the 1920s. In a 1974 interview he recalled that he was taught the moves and dances of a girl because his dance teacher had no prior experience teaching boys. In the Margot Fonteyn biography, he is described as being dark haired, pale, and having large dark eyes.


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