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Natalia Clare, 87; ballerina, dance teacher

Times Staff Writer

Natalia Clare, an American-born principal dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and an important Southland ballet teacher and arts advocate, has died. She was 87.

The director and choreographer of Ballet La Jeunesse, a prominent Southland trainee company that she founded in 1958 and ran until the late 1980s, Clare died April 8 in Torrance of complications from a series of strokes that began in 2003. She had been active as a guest teacher and arts lecturer through the mid-1990s.

She was born Sept. 3, 1919, in Los Angeles, the daughter of Lilian Mettler and Paul H. “Scoop” Conlon, a widely known Hollywood agent and publicist as well as a former reporter at The Times.

She studied ballet with Bronislava Nijinska, one of impresario Sergei Diaghilev’s stable of choreographers, and made her professional debut in 1940 dancing for Nijinska at the Hollywood Bowl.

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In 1942, Colonel de Basil, director of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, invited her to join his company, and she danced for him throughout the world.

She married Oleg Tupine, a Ballets Russes star, in 1945, and they became a team onstage as well. A 1956 Times review praised their “virtuosity of more than average caliber and, above all, teamwork which, for its unusual precision, pointed to a long association in many a recital.”

In 1948, Clare joined Sergei Denham’s competing Ballet Russe company as a principal dancer, performing leading roles in such classics as “Les Sylphides,” “Gaite Parisienne,” “Raymonda,” “Coppelia,” “Graduation Ball,” “Aurora’s Wedding” and “The Nutcracker.” She and Tupine then danced for the Markova-Dolin Ballet and other troupes, including one of their own.

A knee injury ended Clare’s dancing career in the late 1950s, by which time she had founded the Ballet La Jeunesse school and company. Choreographer George Balanchine sometimes gave classes at the school when he visited Los Angeles, and he also authorized the company’s use of several of his major works.

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Clare and Tupine ended their marriage in 1963, and in 1986 she married Russian pianist and composer Michael Liotweizen, who often accompanied Ballet La Jeunesse performances. He died in 1995; Tupine died in 2003.

Clare’s autobiography, “Behind the Tutu,” was published in 2004 by a small press in Tennessee.

She is survived by a son, Alex Tupine, and his wife, Carol, of Redondo Beach.

lewis.segal@latimes.com

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