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Flash News, 11-18: Only the Good Die Young
National Ballet of Canada, "Movin' Out" Star Marrie Killed in Crash with Taxi

"They say there's a Heaven for those who wait
Some say it's better but I say it ain't
I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun
You know that only the good die young
I tell ya only the good die young
Only the good die young."

--Billy Joel

By Paul Ben-Itzak
with Shena Wilson in Toronto
and Susan Yung in New York

NEW YORK and TORONTO -- Earlier this fall, National Ballet of Canada dancers taking over the role of Katchei the Deathless in James Kudelka's "The Firebird" cursed William Marrie in jest as they struggled over the steps he'd found so easy when he created the role two years ago. Saturday night at the Hummingbird Centre, where the audience issued a collective gasp when artistic director Kudelka took the stage to announce the death of his young friend that morning in New York after his motorcycle crashed, they were mourning their fallen colleague of 11 years.

Marrie, currently starring in Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out" on Broadway, died at 8:30 Saturday morning at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital when his heart gave out after three unsuccessful operations to treat a liver lacerated when his motorcycle crashed with a taxicab at 46th and Park Friday evening at rush hour.

William Marrie. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

The dancer would have turned 34 today, the New York Times reported in today's editions.

Tharp, Marrie's rooommate and understudy Laurence Rabson, and his girlfriend Aliane Baquerot maintained an all-night vigil at the hospital, a source close to the show told The Dance Insider. Along with the rest of the cast, they then went on to give the matinee performance Saturday at the Richard Rodgers Theater, dedicating it to Marrie.

"He was a wonderful dancer and a huge heart," Tharp told the Times's Anna Kisselgoff. "He was passionate as a human being, very smart, and there was nothing phony about him. He was just getting the exposure he deserved."

In Manhattan, maybe, but in Canada Marrie was already a bonafide star and treasure. The National, as National Ballet of Canada is known, also dedicated to Marrie Saturday night's performance, a mixed bill including "Firebird." Kudelka recalled Marrie as a "strapping" young man with a "lust for life." When the two recently got together in New York, Kudelka said, an ebullient Marrie talked about how thrilled he was to be working in the Big Apple, living out one of his dreams.

As Katchei, the DI's Shena Wilson wrote, reviewing the premiere, Marrie, "strong, staring, scary and smooth was indeed everything he could be while 'Deathless.'"

Marrie also created leading roles in Kudelka's "Miraculous Mandarin" and Jean-Pierre Perreault's "The Comforts of Solitude." He danced The Man in Kudelka's "Four Seasons," Nikolai and Peter in "Nutcracker," and A Former Acquaintance in "The Actress."

Wilson hailed Marrie's Uncle Nikolai in "The Nutcracker" as "zany and magical and full of funny quirky things. He is a sort of beloved genius-kook. Marrie made all of the demanding allegro and character work look entirely easy and light." In Cranko's "Romeo & Juliet," Wilson wrote , he showed himself "an especially engaging actor who brought suitable sexy-rogue to Mercutio."

Marrie played Onegin in Cranko's ballet of the same name, and, in June 2000, made a splash at the Metropolitan Opera House in his American Ballet Theatre debut, dancing Petruchio opposite new partner Irina Dvorovenko, also making a debut as Kate, in Cranko's "Taming of the Shrew."

"Mr. Marrie turned a cardboard role into a major one," Kisselgoff observed, reviewing the performance June 24 and noting that, "his Petruchio was complex, with stretched-out phrases of movement that suddenly changed direction of tempo, the equivalent of asides to the audience. This was great dance acting that had a rarely seen maturity. His technique, if initally soft, exploded into speed and bravura by the end." Reviewing Marrie May 18, 1999 as Rothbart in an early performance of Kudelka's production of Petipa/Ivanov's "Swan Lake," Kisselgoff said he "danced through Rothbart's dramatic role with stunning resiliency and energy."

Marrie, trained at L'Ecole Superieur de Danse du Quebec, joined the National in 1990 and was promoted to principal in 2001. In last year's annual program book, he credited the atmosphere at the National as inspiring his early success. "When I came to the company, people like Kevin Pugh and Gregory Osborne were still around," he said. "They were so inspiring. I started dancing late -- at 19 -- so I like the freedom in this company. They rehearse you and then leave you alone to work things out, so it's up to you to succeed. I like the atmosphere. What do we need in the future to keep creativity alive? More touring, more performances, more dancers -- and maybe an opera house."

Marrie never saw his opera house in Toronto, but he did see the Great White Way, taking the starring role in one of the two casts of "Movin' Out," directed and choreographed by Tharp. As the mechanic and Vietnam veteran Eddie in the entirely danced 'book' woven around Billy Joel classics, Marrie danced in two-thirds of the 29 song segments, including "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," "Angry Young Man," "Captain Jack," "Pressure," and "Only the Good Die Young."

In working with Marrie, Tharp told the Times, "The intensity that was part of his charisma came from an actor's route. He looked emotionally at a scene and the dancing came from that."

Marrie is survived by his girlfriend, Ms. Baquerot, and by, reports the Times, his mother Andree LeBlanc, his father, Claude, two sisters, Maude and Edith, a brother, Blaise, and his stepfather, Gilles Bleiveise.

"That's all I heard about Brenda and Eddie
Can't tell you more cuz I told you already
And here we are waving Brenda and Eddie goodbye."

--Billy Joel

The Dance Insider is requesting recollections of William Marrie from his colleagues and fans. Please send your reflections to paul@danceinsider.com. Comments received by midnight tonight New York and Toronto time will be included in a future story.

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