'He was a real life Billy Elliot and led the sort of life the rest of us can only dream of' - tributes to a world-famous ballet dancer and choreographer from Desborough
Norman Dixon ended up carving out a fantastic career spanning the second half of the 20th century in the great passion of his life – dancing
A world-famous ballet dancer and choreographer from Desborough has died just days short of 94.
Brilliant Norman Dixon left his humble hometown as a wide-eyed teenager to find his fame and fortune.
The real-life Billy Elliot ended up carving out a fantastic career spanning the second half of the 20th century in the great passion of his life – dancing.
Norman died in a hospital near his home in the Croatian capital Zagreb on May 28.
Now his niece Jane Smailes has paid a heartwarming tribute to her beloved Uncle Norman.
Beaming with pride, Jane, 52, told the Harborough Mail: “My Uncle Norman was a true one-off!
“We are all naturally sad to see him pass away in hospital as he would have celebrated his 94th birthday on Tuesday June 9.
“But Norman led the sort of life the rest of us can only dream of.”
She said he became swept up in dancing at the knee of his maternal grandmother.
“Uncle Norman was a classic Billy Elliot in real life.
“Football and the usual sports weren’t for him, dancing always came first,” said Jane, who grew up in Market Harborough.
Superfit Norman left his family home in Desborough to go to ballet school in Stoke in Trent at the height of the Second World War in 1943.
“He did well there and he scraped his savings together and set off for London.
“Norman found it hard at first and had a tough time,” said Jane, of Wigston.
“But he had a massive drive and desire and he worked his way up to become a principal dancer.
“He was soon doing a lot of work for the BBC and starred in the Nutcracker Suite with the legendary Margot Fonteyne.
“The world was soon his oyster.
“Norman flew out to dance in the then USSR and China during the Cold War.
“He was dancing and headlining all over the world as well as making a huge contribution to dance in Portugal.
“Uncle Norman used to love coming back to Desborough and we used to love his exotic stories.
“I used to lap them up, just sat there taking it all in.
“How many world-class ballet dancers and teachers has Desborough produced over the years?!
“He ended up settling and retiring in Zagreb – he loved Croatia and the people and he couldn’t have been happier.”
The mum-of-two, who’s married to Steve, said Norman kept in close touch with her parents Peter and Maisie as well as his sisters Daphne, who lives in Corby, and Diane in Kettering.
“Uncle Norman was a lovely, kind person who loved life.
“He was devoted and dedicated to dancing, it was his whole life,” said Jane.
“Norman had a lifetime companion, Carlos, who he met way back in 1952.
“Carlos is still with us and we talk to him on Facebook.
“Norman was a truly inspirational man.
“I recall how the family used to crowd around the only TV available to watch and admire him appearing on the BBC back in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
“Norman became very famous and starred alongside some of the biggest names in dance.
“But he never forgot where he came from and he always looked forward to returning to Desborough to see his nearest and dearest.
“We all love Norman to bits, we are so proud of all that he achieved and we will never forget him or the amazing trail he blazed across the world of ballet.”