Margaret Bernstein’s Mother, Bunty Kelley Bernstein, dies at age 92

Bunty dancing

Bunty dancing in Sleeping Beauty with the Royal Ballet in London during the 1930’s

Margaret Bernstein’s Mother, former dancer, Bunty Kelley Bernstein, passed away peacefully in her home in Delmar, New York on Thursday, August 17th, 2017 at the age of ninety two after a battle with cancer. At the request of Bunty, no funeral or memorial service will be held. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to the SAFE through the arts bullying prevention program at Azalea Blossom, Incorporated, POB 21777, Brooklyn, NY, 11202 or at http://www.azaleablossom.com/support/donate

Bunty Kelley Bernstein (Nee’ Helen Margaret Douglas Kelley) was born on April 11, 1925 in London, England to Scottish parents- Nell Dunlop Kelley and John Douglas Kelley, an editor for Shell-Mex BP oil magazine. Bunty’s spent her childhood living in Chelsea, London and spending her holidays with her parents, her Great Aunt, Katerina Forbes Dunlop (the headmistress of the England’s oldest boarding school) and her brother Peter in the sea-side town of Winchelsea in East Sussex. She began formal ballet lessons at age eight and went on to study with Margaret Craske and her assistant Mabel Ryan a few years later. Bunty began her professional career at an early age beginning with small character roles in movies and left school to pursue a full time position as a pantomime dancer at the age of twelve.

Bunty performed in La Concurrence, a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine, in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo before embarking upon a full time career with the Royal Ballet Company (then Sadlers Wells) in 1939. During the interim while the Sadlers Wells theater was closed during the Second World War, Bunty performed with the Rambert Ballet Company for noontime concerts. She continued to dance with Sadlers Wells when it reconvened in 1941 in order to perform for British troops in France and Belgium. Soon afterwards, Bunty performed in several musical shows including Lisbon Story, Jenny Jones and Gay Rosalinda in London before accepting a position with choreographer Agnes De Mille in the film ‘London Town”. In 1946, Bunty left London to join Ms. De Mille in America to perform in the production of Oklahoma on Broadway.

During her tenure with Agnes De Mille, Bunty performed various roles in numerous films and Broadway musicals. Some of the highlights included the following films: Oklahoma, , Carousel, Pajama Game, The Best Things in Life are Free, Anything Goes and Silk Stockings and the following musical shows: Oklahoma, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, Goldilocks and Brigadoon (Broadway) and Brigadoon (London). In addition, she performed in California and in Myrtle Beach for the Indian Master Meher Baba of whom she was a devotee.

Bunty began her ballet teaching career while she was still performing beginning with private classes in Los Angeles and in New York City. She began teaching ballet classes at the Bronx House Music School and went on to teach at the Metropolitan Opera House where she taught until the early 1960’s. She began teaching in the Dance Department at Adelphi Univeristy under the Chairmanship of Harry Bernstein on Long Island in 1959 where she taught and eventually received status as Associate Professor until the early 1970’s. In 1960, she married Harry Bernstein and in 1962 they gave birth to a daughter, Margaret Jean, who eventually became a professional musician.

In the spring of 1974, she began teaching at BOCES Cultural Arts Center (now known as Long Island School of the Arts), where she stayed for twenty years. During her time there, she taught many promising dancers who went on to pursue professional careers in dance including Michael Trusnovec, soloist with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Upon her retirement, Bunty volunteered with a number of organizations including the Garden City nursery school, Hempstead Public Schools and Azalea Blossom, Incorporated where she served on the Board of Directors for several years.

Bunty resided in Garden City on Long Island, New York from August, 1966 until October, 2012 where she moved to Delmar in Upstate, New York. In the last few years of her life, she was active in supporting the budding percussion career of her grandson, Julian Jacobs. She is survived by her daughter, Flutist/songwriter Margaret Jean Bernstein, her grandson, percussionist/drummer Julian Jacobs and nieces and nephews.

Bunty’s Danceology

  • Hiawatha (Spirit of love, ensemble in the Spring Ballet), Royal Albert Hall, 1937
  • Charity Event for the waifs and strays ( (Spirit of a birthday cake), Royal Albert Hall, 1938 (attended by Queen Mary)
  • Birthday Party for Queen Mary (Spirit of a birthday cake), Grosvenor House, 1938
  • Beauty and the Beast Pantomime (Snowflake), Lyceum Theater, 1938
  • Imperial Society annual congress (German dancer), 1938
  • Queen of Hearts Pantomime (Cupid), Lyceum Theater, 1938 (costume made by Manya)
  • Cecchetti Society All Star charity event for the School for the Blind, (The Little Mermaid), (Choreography by Margaret Craske). (Also featured Anthony Tudor and Hugh Laing), London Palladium in Oxford Circus, 1938
    • La Concurrence (“The child”), ( ballet choreographed by George Balanchine with  the Ballet Russe of Monte Carlo, Covent Garden, 1939
    • The Sleeping Princess (AKA “Sleeping Beauty”), (Page to the Rose Fairy, Red Riding Hood), with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet), 1940
    • Coppelia (Coppelia the doll; soloist in the betrothal dance) With Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet), 1940
    • The Prospect Before Us (AKA “Pity the Poor Dancers), (A street urchin), with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet), 1940
    • Casse Noisette (AKA Nutcracker Ballet) (Mouse, Reed flute in Les Mirlitons) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • The Wise Virgins (cherub) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Dante Sonata (Child of Darkness) With Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Le Lac de Cygnes (AKA Swan Lake) (in quartet of the little swans in act 2 and a black cygnet in act 3; Solo in trio at ball) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Giselle (dancer in quartet in act 1 and will in act 2) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Facade ( an Ecossaise AKA “Scottish Dancer”; Soloist as the milkmaid) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Les Sylphides (a Sylph) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Comus (a pig) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Rake’s Progress (Dancer in tavern) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Les Patineurs (Soloist as Fouette’ Girl and Ice Skater) with Sadlers Wells (Royal Ballet)
    • Lisbon Story (dancer), Palace Theater, London (1943)
    • Jenny Jones (dancer), London (1944)
    • Gay Rosalinda (member of the ballet), Palace Theater, London (1945)
    • London Town (dancer in the film choreographed by Agnes De Mille (1945)
      • Oklahoma (the girl who falls down) in the Broadway show choreographed by Agnes De Mille), St. James Theater, NYC  (1946)
      • Brigadoon (fish monger in the Broadway show choreographed by Agnes De Mille), Ziegfeld Theater, NYC (1947)
      • Rape of Lucretia (Prostitute in the opera choreographed by Agnes De Mille), Ziegfeld Theater, NYC (1948)
      • Brigadoon (Jean McLaren in the show choreographed by Agnes DeMille), Manchester Opera House and His Majesty’s Theater, London, UK (1949)
      • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Dancer in the Broadway show choreographed by Agnes De Mille), Ziegfeld Theater, NYC and at Palace Theater, Chicago (1951)
      • Neptune Music Circus (various roles in a collection of one week runs of shows including Brigadoon, Carousel, Bloomer Girl, Merry Widow, Desert Song and Annie Get Your Gun) Asbury Park, New Jersey (1952)
      • Ballet Theater (AKA American Ballet Theater), (Girl dancer), Rodeo (Ballet choreographed by Agnes De Mille), NYC (1952)
      • Aida, La Boheme, Cavalleria Rusticana, Salome and other operas (dancer and members of the chorus), Metropolitan Opera Company (1952)
      • Agnes De Mille’s Dance Theater on tour (1953-54), US and Canada
      • The Glenn Miller Story (Film featuring Gene Krupa and James Stewart), 1954
      • Oklahoma (The movie choreographed by Agnes De Mille), 1955
      • Guys and Dolls (The movie choreographed by Michael Kidd), 1955
      • Marty (The movie featuring Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair ),1955
      • Funny Girl (The movie featuring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire), 1956
      • Carousel (The movie choreographed by Rod Alexander), 1956
      • The Vagabond King (The movie choreographed by Hanya Holmes), 1956
      • Anything Goes (The movie choreographed by Roland Petit), 1956
      • The Best Things in Life are Free (The movie choreographed by Rod Alexander and Bill Foster), 1956
      • Black Bottom (a dance from “The Best Things in Life are Free” with Tex Hightower for Meher Baba), San Francisco, 1956
      • Pajama Game (The movie choreographed by Bob Fosse), 1957
      • Gun Fight at the OK Corral (The movie featuring Burt Lancester), 1957
      • Silk Stockings (Movie featuring Cyd Charisse and Peter Lorre choreographed by Eugene Loring) 1957
      • Goldilocks ( Maid in duet with Kelly Brown in Broadway Show Choreographed by Agnes De Mille ), Lunt Fontanne Theater, NYC  (1958-59)
      • Les Patineurs (Dance with Marie Adair, Peter Saul, Naomi Westervelt, Zebra Nevins, Joe Fabian, and Jean Cebron for Meher Baba), The Barn, Meher Center, Myrtle Beach , 1958