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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 28, 2002

Ballet dancer Tessa Dye, who toured Asia and Europe, dead at 56

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tessa Gay Magoon Dye, who trained at the Royal Ballet School in London in the 1960s and danced throughout Europe and Asia in the 1970s as a member of two European companies, died Nov. 23 at her Lanikai home. She was 56.

"(Tessa Dye) looked exotic enough that she could pass for Spanish," said her husband, historian Robert "Bob" Dye, an Advertiser editorial page columnist.
She was born in Honolulu and was the first ballet mistress of the now defunct Honolulu City Ballet.

But she began her dance career as a member of the Jose Greco Spanish Ballet in Madrid, training in Madrid and Puerto Rico and touring the United States as one of Greco's partners.

"She looked exotic enough that she could pass for Spanish, so they gave her the name Roldan," said her husband, historian Robert "Bob" Dye, an Advertiser editorial page columnist.

"But according to Tessa she never could manage the castanets, so the ones she used had felt on them. The others made enough noise that it covered for her."

Dye later joined the Harkness Ballet in New York City and then moved to Berlin for five years as a member of the Deutsche Oper, the German Opera Ballet. As part of that group she toured Europe and Asia. In 1976 she returned to Hawai'i, accepting the position as ballet mistress of the newly founded Honolulu City Ballet.

Dye served on the boards of directors of the Kindergarten Children's Aid Association, ASSETS School, the Magoon Estate and Guenoc Winery. She was also a member of Daughters of Hawai'i and Friends of Iolani Palace.

In later years she was an avid horsewoman and deeply involved in activities at Maunawili Farm.

She is a great-granddaughter of Chun Afong, considered the first Chinese millionaire in Hawai'i. He launched a sugar plantation, married into Hawaiian royalty and was the first Chinese named to King Kalakaua's Privy Council.

As one of Afong's descendants, Dye was consulted in recent years about the Chinese government's desire to turn the Afong compound in the Chinese village of Meixi into a museum and tourist attraction, partly to celebrate its outstanding architecture and partly to remember a man who had made such contributions in both worlds.

In addition to her husband, Dye is survived by daughters, Ahia and Hi'ilei; and son, Kekapala.

A memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Monday at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Kailua at 114 Makawao, with visitation beginning at 12:30 p.m. The service will be followed by a celebration of her life from 3 to 5 p.m. at Kalama Beach Park at 280 N. Kalaheo in Kailua. Aloha attire is requested.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to the Kindergarten Children's Aid Association, ASSETS School or Hawai'i Pacific University.

Inurnment will be private. Arrangements by Borthwick Mortuary.