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Jelko Yuresha Croatian ballet prodigy at the Royal Ballet in London since 1962
Beth Storey Taylor: ... Jelko Juresha. Philosopher, teacher, messanger, and ghost, he is in our time, yet not of our time
Belinda Wright-Yuresha and Jelko Yuresha (Željko Jureša, Zagreb) in the early 1960s
From the title page of the monograph Davor Schopf and Mladen Mordej Vučković: Yuresha - Visions and Dreams / Jureša - Vizije i snovi, (in English and Croatian), 330 pp, Zagreb 2011, ISBN 978-953-56634-0-9
Jelko Yuresha (born 9 May 1937) is a British ballet dancer and choreographer. He and his wife, ballerina Belinda Wright, toured internationally as "Ambassadors of Dance" for the United Kingdom from 1966-1977. In 1959 he partnered with Wright for the first time at a Royal Command Performance before Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Jelko Yuresha was born Željko Jureša in Zagreb, Croatia. His stepfather, Andrija, was a shoemaker and his mother, Slavica, a seamstress. During World War II his family was forced to live in underground bunkers because of the occupation by the German army. Between 1944-1945 Zagreb suffered constant bombing by the Allies and his family survived barely at subsistence level. Despite these hardships Yuresha began performing with the children's theatre of ZagrebĂ˘s Artistic School at age six. He studied dance under choreographer Mile Jovanović in Zagreb. On his eighth birthday in 1945, the American army liberated his hometown.
He studied dance under Mile Jovanović in Zagreb and soon after was accepted by the International Ballet School in Kaštel Kambelovac near Split at the end of 1952 where he came under the tutelage of Ana Roje, the Prima Ballerina of the Croatian ballet. Yuresha advanced rapidly through the corps de ballet to soloist with prominent roles.
In 1958 at age 20, Jelko Yuresha emigrated to England, later gaining United Kingdom citizenship. He studied in Kent at Legat School of Ballet, today part of the St. Bede's School Trust. Yuresha was a student of Russian prima ballerina Nadine Nicolaeva-Legat.
Yuresha made his professional debut as a first guest artist with the newly formed Irish Theatre Ballet in Dublin. At the 1959 Hastings Musical Festival held in the White Rock Theatre, Hastings, England, he performed his own choreography in a pas de deux. He was awarded first prize at the festival.
He joined London Festival Ballet (today English National Ballet) in 1959. On 23 June 1959, Yuresha partnered with Belinda Wright at a Royal Command Performance before Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in Manchester. He danced in the BBC Eurovision production of Sleeping Beauty with the legendary prima ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn starring in the title role on 20 December 1959.
Yuresha joined the Royal Ballet in 1962, the same month as another Eastern European emigre, Rudolph Nureyev, joined the company. Wright followed Yuresha to the Royal Ballet, and the pair continued their dance partnership in dozens of performances. Yuresha danced with the Royal Ballet until 1965. He worked with some of the top choreographers and directors of the era, including Sir Frederick Ashton, Vladimir Bourmeister, Serge Lifar, Leonid Massine, and Bronislava Nijinska.
Massine chose Yuresha for the lead role in Le Bal des Voleurs (Thieves' Carnival) at Covent Garden in 1963, where he partnered with Carla Fracci. Other important roles included Signor Midas in John Cranko's The Lady and the Fool, Albrecht in Giselle, and the prince in Sleeping Beauty, which he danced with Belinda Wright. In 1971 he worked with Nijinska in her production of Les Noces (The Wedding) the final time the remarkable ballet was personally directed by her.
Jelko Yuresha and Belinda Wright married on 4 November 1961, in the Town Hall, Chelsea, Kings Road. A grand reception followed at the Savoy Hotel. Born in Southport, England, Wright (1929-2007) trained in Paris with Olga Preobrajenska and in London with Kathleen Crofton. After World War II, she became a soloist and principal dancer at a number of prominent international ballet companies, including Ballet Rambert, Roland Petites Les Ballets de Paris, London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), Le Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, Companie de Golovine, London Dance Theatre, and the Royal Ballet.
The couple's daughter, Annabel Lisa, was born in 1962, in London. After a short maternity leave, Wright returned to the stage. On leaving the Royal Ballet, Yuresha and Wright toured England, Scotland, and Ireland as guest stars with the Harlequin Ballet 1965-1966.
In 1967 Yuresha and Wright were invited to represent England as "Ambassadors of Dance" of the British government. For ten years they traveled the world under the auspices of the British Council, performing in grand theaters of cosmopolitan cities and humble venues in developing nations. They introduced audiences large and small to the art of ballet. Their tours took them to Cuba, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Mozambique, New Zealand, Venezuela, and many other cities. They toured across Europe, Southeast Asia, and Central America. In Barbados they danced in a school hall. In the high altitudes of Bogota and Mexico City they had to use oxygen masks in rehearsals and off stage. Yuresha and Wright presented dances from Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Don Quixote. Dancing pas de deux and other forms of dance, the partners were often the first ballet dancers the audiences had ever seen in a live performance.
Jelko Yuresha (Željko Jureša) and Ljerka Njerš (distinguished Croatian sculptress and painter) in Zagreb 2017
Jelko Yuresha and Vjera Reiser (Croatian painter) in Zagreb in 2017
Jelko Yuresha (Željko Jureša) in his native city of Zagreb. Many thanks to Mrs. Ljiljana Ivšić, Germany, for having sent me the preceding 3 photos, taken in the automn 2017.
Jelko Yuresha at the exhibition of his donations to the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. Photo by V. Benović.
Jelko Yuresha with a part of his valuables donated to the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. Photo by V. Benović.
Belinda Wright and Jelko Yuresha The Ambassadors of British Ballet
Their tours included
Greece, Israel, Malta, Turkey, Cyprus, India, Sri Lanka, Malaya, Singapore, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, San Slavador, Jamaica and Cuba.
Leaving London behind, life became an endless nomadic experience, changing cities, hotels and theatres almost every day. Each venue created new situations: stages of different sizes, different technical equipment, and stage-hands to be instructed on the order of the evening, setting up the scenery, sighting, costumes, music, packing. Every spare moment was filled with press interviews, embassy receptions and visits to local dance in ballet. When staying at British Embassy residences they were looked after by well-trained professionals showing why the British Emprie and Commonwealth lasted so long.
Belinda Wright and Jelko Juresha were superb. The pair glided through what must to them be a familiar routine, yet left the audience with the impression it had seen great stars dancing a part for the first time.
The Daily Telegraph, New Zealand
Source: Davor Schopf and Mladen Mordej Vučković: Yuresha - Visions and Dreams / Jureša - Vizije i snovi, (in English and Croatian), Zagreb 2011, p. 132.
She is all dance, with complete technical knowledge which has become second nature fused with her fragile and light personality. He is lightness and strength, two thing rare in a male dancer; he is a partner of whom every ballerina dreams, with his ability to lift his partner with ease, with no demonstration, not to the lightest sign of effort, and to dance harmniously together with her, with no means of support. The two dancers proved the extent to which they complement each other and how much they perfect each other. Belinda Wright is a light and easy dancer, like transparent porcelain, but in all the make-up of her style there is more then excellent technique, there is spirit. The same is true of Jelko. He is strong, but does not stress nor demonstrate his strength; instead, he turns it to a beauty of the rhythm of movement, to a lightness of a fluttering in the air. Technique here is not just physical ability, but an expression of personality and of original style. As the styles described by Hyppolite Taine: "The style is the man". We spent an evening of complete aesthetic enjoyment.
Haim Gamzu, Tel Aviv, Israel
Source: Davor Schopf and Mladen Mordej Vučković: Yuresha - Visions and Dreams / Jureša - Vizije i snovi, (in English and Croatian), Zagreb 2011, p. 133.
Željko Jureša born in 1937 in the city of Zagreb
Beth Storey Taylor: ... Jelko Juresha. Philosopher, teacher, messanger, and ghost, he is in our time, yet not of our time ...
Belinda Yuresha Wright (1929-2007)
In the catalogoue
Balet i strast / Donacija Jelka Yureshe (Ballet and Passion / The Jelko Yuresha Donation), Muzej za umjetnost i obrt (Museum for Arts and Crafts), Zagreb 2018.
there is a very interesting biographic article
Davor Schopfand Mladen Mordej Vučković: Život za umjetnost i ljepotu / Life for Art and Beauty
South America: Buenos Aires, Bogota, Caracas, Lima, Santiago, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Ciduad de Mexico
Jelko Yuresha during the first communion in Zagreb in 1940s.
The Royal Ballet
Ambassadors of Dance of the British government Ballet Evening with Belinda Wright and Jelko Yuresha at the Cuban National Ballet in Havana
Dancing in Tokyo in 1977 (where Belinda Wright had her last public appearance). Jelko Yuresha had his last performance in Venice in 1982, at the Malibran Theatre.
Željko Jureša in Zagreb in 1940s
Croatian State Theatre in Zagreb, 1943, "In the World of Dwarfs"
Jelko Yuresha was teaching as a professor of the University of Panama, and served as the director of the University Ballet Theatre in Panama, as well as an Advisor of the Ministry of culture of Panama.
He taught dance at the Hunter College of the New York University. As coreographers and teachers, Belinda Wirght and Jelko Yuresha collaborated with
The Australlian Ballet
Teatro alla Scala in Mila
Rome Opera Ballet
English National Ballet
American National Theatre - ABT
Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris
Tetsuya Kumakawa Theatre in Japan
National Ballet of China in Beijing.
They also danced in
Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey,
India, Ceylon, Malay, Singapore,
Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malaysia,
New Zealand, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Coasta Rica, Guatemala, San Slavador, Jamaica, Cuba.
Jelko Yuresha donation to the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, 2018
Jelko Yuresha: Art is and will remain the only measure of our civilization
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