Kathryn Murray, 1999/08/06
Juliet Prowse, 1996/09/15
Fred Kelly, 2000/03/17
Harold Nicholas, 2000/04/07
Michael Houseman 2000/02/25
Michael Houseman, ballroom dancer, was born in Harrow on April 9, 1930. He died of cancer on February 25 in Port Charlotte, Florida, aged 69
MICHAEL HOUSEMAN was a rarity: a British ballroom dancer who was also a true gentleman and sportsman. As amateurs, he and his partner Valerie Waite, who later became his wife, won almost every important championship, including the World Amateur title in 1960. The only one that eluded them was the Open British, which they twice missed by a single point. They turned professional in 1961 and were in the top six in the world for ten years, consistently being placed third behind Bill and Bobbie Irvine, and Bob Burgess and Doreen Freeman.
Educated at Merchant Taylors', Michael Scott Houseman came from grew up with and danced in the same school as Victor Silvester. He was taken as a child by his sister Jill to Elsie Christmas's studio in Watford and at 13 decided to make dancing his career, transfixed by watching Bob Burgess dance at the Star Ball in London. Christmas escorted him around the studios of North London in a hunt for a dance partner who could match his tall and elegant style, and at Guy Hayward's school in Harrow he teamed up with Valerie.
After a brief spell of National Service in the RAF, where he managed to become a physical training instructor in order to save his hands and feet for dancing, he followed his father into the insurance business and then turned to dancing full time.
He and Valerie lived a life of constant travel, touring the country giving demonstrations and competing. In the early days all their available money went on paying for lessons, and they had barely spare tyres and when they were not practising, many hours were spent changing wheels by the roadside. In between dance events, they and their closest rivals would meet up in the early hours of the morning at the Blue Boar cafe, now a motorway service station, outside Birmingham. The dancers were a strange sight, with coiffured hair and ballroom elegance, sharing stories of their latest spills on the ballroom floor to the bemusement of the weary lorry drivers.
A few months after retiring, Valerie became pregnant, though she had been told she could never have children, and their daughter, Abigail, was born. As a couple they then developed their hugely successful careers as coaches and adjudicators. Michael Houseman established a formidable reputation as one of the best trainers of junior dancers Britain has ever seen, helping John Wood and other top champions on the road to success. His particular bugbear was stiff-legged dancers, and if he thought it necessary he was prepared to leap onto the shoulders of male dancers whom he considered particularly "high", or stiff in the leg, in his determination to force them to "lower".
But his knowledge of technique was sound and he qualified as a judge and examiner in ballroom, Latin American and Old Time dancing, and went on to become chairman of the ballroom section of the National Society.
He was a regular adjudicator at the British Championships at Blackpool, and shortly before he died he was thrilled to learn that he had once again been selected to judge the competition, in May.
From the late 1980s onwards, the Housemans divided their time between homes in Florida and London, where he taught at Brenda Bishop's studio, the Regal Ballroom above the Cannon cinema in Beckenham, Kent. He was much in demand as a coach in England, America, Italy and the Far East.
He is survived by his wife and daughter.
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Last modified on: Wednesday, 2001 August, 15.