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"KUI" 2002 Obituary


KUINKA 

KUINKA o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2002-11-25 published
The supernova of ballet
Fun-loving character dancer lived life to the fullest
By Paula CITRON
Monday, November 25, 2002 -- Page R7
Toronto -- When John CRANKO's The Taming of the Shrew entered the National Ballet of Canada's repertoire in February, 1992, there were four advertised casts, and I was slated to see them all. It was Peter OTTMANN, then a first soloist who was appearing as Lucentio, who told me about a fifth performance -- a student matinee that featured a new member of the corps de ballet as Petruchio.
When one dancer singles out another to a dance writer, you listen, and even though I was in Shrew overload, I was there that Thursday afternoon to experience the explosive dance phenomenon known as William MARRI.
His maddeningly male, politically incorrect Petruchio kicked butt and gave no quarter, and I thought he was one of the sexiest men alive, let alone that the guy could dance up a storm.
"I felt he was going to be brilliant which is why I mentioned the performance," recalled Mr. OTTMANN. " From what he was showing in rehearsal, I knew he was going to be a major player of the next generation."
Reid ANDERSON, who staged the ballet, was the National Ballet's artistic director at the time.
"One noticed immediately William's beautiful feet and legs, and handsome, chiselled features," he said from his office at the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany. "He had the raw animal charisma that I thought would be perfect for the role."
Mr. MARRI was Shakespeare's Petruchio in real life, too -- a hard-drinking, hard-living, fun-loving bon vivant with an appetite for excitement.
His death in Manhattan on Nov. 16 -- just two days before his 34th birthday -- was a shock, but not the manner of his going. His motorcycle collided with a cab and three operations couldn't save him.
Mr. MARRI often alluded to the notion that he would die young on his beloved bike. Perhaps that's why he lived every moment to the fullest.
"He had a James DEAN quality about him," said National Ballet principal dancer Rex HARRINGTON, "like he was doomed to live fast, die young and become a supernova."
Mr. MARRI was in New York because he was the second cast lead in the Twyla THARP/Billy JOEL dance musical hit Movin' Out. The company had been searching for over six months for an acting dancer to play Eddie in the matinees until they found Mr. MARRI. "He was hungry, a quality I admire," Ms. THARP said. "He came to a role that was already defined, but he made it his own."
Perhaps the most astonishing fact about Mr. MARRI was that he didn't begin serious dance training until he was 19.
Born and raised in Montreal, he had an unsettled early life. His parents separated when he was young and he had a volatile relationship with his father. By his teens, Mr. MARRI was a street-smart, dyslexic dropout hanging out in bad company. He had also been a beach bum in Hawaii, and in fact, when he got the Broadway role earlier this year, he moved to the New Jersey shore so he could surf every morning before going to the theatre.
He became interested in classical dance after seeing Jorge DUNN of the Bjart company perform in a movie. More to the point, he told Friends later, a dance school was home to a plethora of half-naked women in leotards.
Vincent WARREN, his first teacher at L'cole suprieure de danse du Qubec, remembered a guy who walked in off the street in 1987 wearing a tattered track suit on a bronzed body that was born to dance. Daniel SEILLIER, his second teacher, recalled the big personality whose wildness manifested itself in a maniacal urge to succeed.
After graduating, Mr. MARRI spent the summer at the Banff Centre's dance program where he solidified his legend as a Casanova.
He joined the National in 1990, and while not quite the stately prince with beautiful lines, he excelled in the dramatic, demi-character roles requiring both strong technique and acting.
Mr. MARRI never held back on-stage nor in his personal life, said James KUDELKA, the National's artistic director. Close Friends like Richard LANDRY and Christopher BODY from the National, and Sean D'ANDRADE, who works in hospitality, are full of William MARRI stories, many unprintable. He was a man who loved women and possessed an unrelenting sexual appetite. He could carouse all night and still show up for work the next day. As former dancer Joanna IVEY says: "If you knew him a short time, he was your friend. If you knew him a long time, he was your brother."
Mr. MARRI was a man who believed in a male code of nobility and loyalty.
Even so, women like ballet orchestra violist Valerie KUINKA adored him because he was spiritual and tender. Principal dancer Greta HODGKINSON, who was romantically involved with Mr. MARRI for more than five years, said he was vulnerable and sensitive yet brutally honest.
Complex, vain and intelligent, a suave French-Canadian who had exquisite taste, Mr. MARRI was a man of many facets. He loved watching cartoons and collecting comic books and he was interested in the supernatural. He was a master chess and pool player and an avid golfer, and also a superb cook, gourmand and wine savant. In fact, he dreamed of opening up a restaurant with his good friend, tenor Richard MARGISON, and their favourite conversations were about the world's best wines and tequilas.
Although fiercely dedicated to his craft, Mr. MARRI often refused to do press interviews or go to receptions. When he did attend, he acted outrageously. Yet, in his final years at the National, he took it upon himself to be gadfly to such talented youngsters as first soloist Guillaume COT.
"It was scary at first, but I think he saw I had the potential to become self-absorbed and egotistical," Mr. COT said. "He wanted to teach me early, what he had come to learn late."
And then there was the motorcycle.
On the day he was promoted to principal dancer, Mr. MARRI showed a dearly held, dog-eared photo of a motorbike, a Ducati, to Ms. KUINKA, telling her it was going to be a present to himself.
"His motorcycle was all about freedom," Mr. LANDRY said. "A hundred kilometres [an hour] on a bike feels different than in a car. You feel alive in the rush of speed."
For those he left behind, that was a great irony. Former soloist Roberto CAMPANELLA said perhaps it was best that death took Mr. MARRI -- anything less than 120 per cent would have been a nightmare.
William MARRI, dancer; born in Montreal on Nov. 18, 1968; died in New York on Nov. 16, 2002.
Paula CITRON reviews dance for The Globe and Mail.

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