William Perrie obituary

My friend William Perrie, who has died aged 78, was a soloist with London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) and the Royal Ballet, and shared the stage with many of the greats including Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. He was also a successful actor and an entomologist, supplying specimens to collections including Kew Gardens and the British Museum.

Bill danced with the Royal Ballet from 1964; a highlight was performing alongside Nureyev and Fonteyn in Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Romeo and Juliet at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 1972. By 1976 he was a fellow soloist with Nureyev, playing the Rat King in The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House. They were both living in Richmond, west London, so would travel to work together. Bill also became friends with Princess Margaret at this time, as she would often drop in on rehearsals.

He appeared in many films as a dancer, including The Intelligence Men (1965) with Morecambe and Wise and Nijinsky (1980). His TV work included appearances in Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, and in the children’s show Rentaghost (1983-84).

Perrie was a keen entomologist, supplying specimans to Kew Gardens and the British Museum

After leaving the Royal Ballet in 1978, Bill formed Q Naturalist Enterprises from his home in Kew, and dedicated himself to his entomology. He became one of the country’s foremost dealers in beetles, leading expeditions to the Amazon and Botswana to collect rare specimens. In 1981 he founded the London Butterfly House at Syon House in Isleworth, west London. It closed in 2007 to make way for a hotel development.

Born in Hendon, north London, just before the outbreak of the second world war, to Robert Perrie, an aircraft engineer, and his wife Sylvia, nee Eeles, Bill was evacuated to his grandparents’ home in Monifieth, near Arbroath. On his return to London he went to school in Muswell Hill. His first job was as a trainee technician in the zoology department of University College London.

In 1956 Bill moved to Bristol, where he stayed with a great-uncle who was active in the theatre and who threw parties for people in the business. There Bill met Peter O’Toole (he later performed alongside him in the film Great Catherine, 1968), and the dancer and choreographer Anton Dolin, who sparked Bill’s interest in ballet to the point he decided to audition for lessons with Marie Rambert. He impressed her enough to be accepted and, after appearing in the West End musical Expresso Bongo in 1958, was offered a full scholarship.

The next year Bill was accepted into Dolin’s London Festival Ballet. A three-month tour of South America ensued, with Bill playing one of the boys in Prince Igor. Soloist roles followed in The Snow Maiden and The Nutcracker (1964-65).

In 1965 he ventured back to the West End with a part in Hello Dolly, then toured with a number of overseas ballet companies before securing his contract with the Royal Ballet, which lasted until 1978.

Bill married a fellow Festival Ballet member, Carol Yule, in 1965. They divorced in 1988. He is survived by their daughter and a grandson.

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