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.