Lise la Cour was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1944. When she was eight years old, she began her training at the Royal Danish Ballet School, learning the Danish Bournonville technique. Her teachers included legends such as Hans Brenaa, Erik Bruhn, Vera Volkova and Stanley Williams. At the age of 18, she became a dancer for the Royal Danish Ballet where she performed soloist and principal roles. During her tenure at the Royal Danish Ballet, she had the great honor of working with some of the most important names in ballet history; George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Flemming Flindt, Roland Petit, Kenneth MacMillan, and John Neumeier to name a few.
Lise’s time at the Royal Danish Ballet was not only spent dancing. From 1988 to 1995 she served as the Associate Ballet Director. She would also work as a freelance choreographer and teacher for them, even when she was no longer living in Denmark. In 1989, Lise was made a Knight of the Order of Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, a woman she adored and respected as they both shared a deep admiration of ballet. She was also awarded the Margot Lander Lifetime Achievement Award for all of her numerous contributions to the world of ballet.
In 2002, Lise came to America to teach for Ballet San Jose, where she would educate for nearly ten years as the School Director. She would mount all of her children’s ballets at this school, fitting hundreds of students in an annual show for all of their parents and loved ones. Each year, students could look forward to ending their semester with a demonstration of their hard work and dedication to ballet, each of her students reflecting Lise’s own determination as she passed the Bournonville technique on to San Jose’s students. The children she taught ranged from the young age of four to the adults who attended her open evening and weekend classes.
For her students, she created five fairy tale ballets. “Silly Simon”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Mermaid”, “The Tinderbox”, and “Snow White” were based on the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brother’s Grimm. The four Hans Christian Andersen ballet costumes and sets were by Bjoern Wiinblad, a well known designer from Denmark. Music for these ballets was contributed by her friend Bent Fabricius-Bjerre, who was a famous Danish Composer known for many songs, including “Ally Cat”. Though you may not have heard his name, you have undoubtedly heard his music before.
Her choreography ranged from full length children’s fairy tale ballets to choreography that won first place at the Grand Prix Italia. Lise created many pieces of individual choreography over the years, for students to use in performances, auditions, and competitions. She also created choreography for Opera San Jose, working with their creative team for many seasons.
In February of 2012, she formed Lise la Cour’s LaCademy of Ballet. Here she offered elite private lessons, as well as small classes and summer programs for students both familiar and new. She truly loved her time at LaCademy, as it allowed her to focus on a few students at a time and to set her own rules for the classroom. LaCademy was a unique and special school, as was it’s founder.
During her time in San Jose, Lise was proud of the hardworking, talented young dancers she worked with, students who came to her and followed her through many changes. Those who have learned from her know what a lesson with Lise la Cour was like. She always lead with grace and poise, but she dedicated herself to her work, making sure to always shape her dancers and students into their most beautiful possibilities. She gave so much to each of her students, working with them to help them achieve their dreams, but she was also so proud of each and every one of them. She was a ballerina, but she was also a teacher, a role model, and a friend. She was many things to many people throughout her life, but above all else she was loved by all who knew her.
Lise passed away in August of 2016, after a brief illness. She is survived by her three devoted children, Nilas, Ask, and Mikkel, her husband Roger, her sister Lotte, and a granddaughter. She will be remembered for her indelible mark on the dance community and the ballet world.