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Tributes paid to crash death dancer Jonathan Ollivier

Published 10/08/2015

A poster advertising Matthew Bourne's The Car Man at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, which was cancelled following the death of dancer Jonathan Ollivier
A poster advertising Matthew Bourne's The Car Man at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, which was cancelled following the death of dancer Jonathan Ollivier

A dancer who was killed hours before he was due to perform a lead role in a top London theatre has been hailed as "one of the most charismatic and powerful dancers of his generation".

Jonathan Ollivier, 38, was killed yesterday in a motorbike accident shortly before he was due to take to the stage in the final show of Matthew Bourne's The Car Man at Sadler's Wells Theatre.

The dance star, who had previously won plaudits for playing The Swan in Bourne's all-male Swan Lake, was described by the renowned choreographer as "a true gent".

In a statement, Bourne, artistic director of New Adventures dance company which was behind The Car Man, said: "Yesterday we lost our Swan and our Car Man - Jonathan Ollivier was one of the most charismatic and powerful dancers of his generation: An intensely masculine presence tempered with tenderness and vulnerability made him the perfect casting for a string of triumphant roles in the New Adventures repertory including The Swan, the enigmatic Speight in Play Without Words and his final role as Luca in The Car Man, which he was due to dance at last night's final performance at Sadler's Wells.

"A man of great warmth and charm, Jonny was a true gent, loved and respected by his colleagues and adored by audiences who were mesmerised by his memorable performances on stage as well as his friendly and genuine personality at the stage door.

"He was also an inspiration and role model to several generations of young dancers who strived to emulate his enviable technique and majestic stage presence.

"Yesterday's events have ripped at the heart of the New Adventures family and we join together to send our heartfelt condolences to all of Jonny's family and friends.

"In our grieving for this irreplaceable artist we take some comfort in the legacy of memories that he has left behind."

Ollivier was killed as he rode his motorbike through Clerkenwell in central London yesterday morning, Scotland Yard said.

He was involved in a collision with a black Mercedes saloon car in Farringdon Road and p olice, paramedics and an air ambulance tried to save his life, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver, who stopped at the scene, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and was in custody at a central London police station.

Police said he has since been bailed to a date in February 2016.

Ollivier, from Northampton, had been due to play the role of Luca in the evening performance of Bourne's show which was due to finish yesterday after a run of nearly four weeks at the famous venue.

His sister Rachel Ollivier wrote on Facebook last night: ''To all my beautiful little bro friends, it is with a heavy heart that we have to tell you that Jon tragically died today. We love him and will miss him massively xx.''

Ollivier's fellow cast were said to be ''shaken'' after they heard about the accident and Bourne's dance company New Adventures cancelled last night's show.

Theatre-goers were turned away at the door and told by staff that the production had been cancelled ''due to a tragic accident''.

In an email to ticket-holders, the theatre said: ''On behalf of the company New Adventures, we regret to inform patrons that tonight's performance of The Car Man at Sadler's Wells has had to be cancelled due to a tragic accident earlier today.

''While due process is being followed we are unable to give further information however we offer our sincere condolences to those concerned.

''New Adventures and Sadler's Wells are sorry for the inconvenience caused to patrons due to attend tonight's performance.''

The Car Man is loosely based on Georges Bizet's opera Carmen and set in 1960s America.

Ollivier's performance had been praised by critics, with The Telegraph's Rachel Ward writing that he brought ''brooding power and danger of a matador'' to the role.

He trained at the Rambert School of Dance and has been a principal dancer at Cape Town Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre and the Alberta Ballet.

As a principal dancer for Bourne's New Adventures, he played two seasons of Swan/Stranger in Swan Lake, Luca in The Car Man and Speight in Play Without Words.

He was awarded an honorary fellowship to the Dance Critics Circle and nominated by them as Best Young Dancer in 2003 and Best Male Dancer in 2004.

Ollivier has guest starred for major dance companies in the USA, South Africa and Germany and toured extensively around the world.

Scotland Yard said formal identification and a post-mortem examination will take place in due course.

Detectives from the serious collision investigation unit are investigating and are keen to hear from anyone who witnessed or may have information regarding the collision.

Anyone with any information can contact the police on 020 8991 9555 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Alistair Spalding, CEO and artistic director of Sadler's Wells, said: "Jonathan Ollivier was a very talented dancer who performed at Sadler's Wells on many occasions with both Northern Ballet Theatre and New Adventures, and was hugely admired by audiences and colleagues.

"We are shocked and saddened by this tragic accident. Our sincere condolences go to Jonathan's family and friends."

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