Isabel Mirrow Brown
Isabel Mirrow Brown, a member of Ballet Theatre in its early days and later immortalized in the screenplay for The Turning Point
, died in August 2014 at age 86. Brown was born in the Bronx into a family of Jewish-Russian immigrants and was a childhood friend of future ballerina Nora Kaye. Inspired by Kaye’s involvement with ballet, Isabel got a scholarship to study at Carnegie Hall with Anatole Vilzak. By 1945 she was dancing on Broadway, and she joined Ballet Theatre the following year, performing in the original production of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations
in 1947. By the time she performed as part of a three-week Pillow residency in 1949, she had married fellow company dancer Kelly Brown, and they eventually raised four children (including prominent ABT dancers Leslie Browne and Ethan Brown). After their onstage careers ended, Isabel and Kelly moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to operate a dance studio, and after their divorce she moved back to New York where she worked in a travel agency and helped raise money for Finis Jhung’s ballet company. For years she opened her Manhattan apartment to young dancers who needed a place to stay, among them Julie Kent and Misty Copeland. The Turning Point
was based on the Brown family’s story, and Shirley MacLaine played the Isabel-inspired character who gave up her career to raise a family. Brown’s real-life daughter, ABT’s Leslie Browne, played MacLaine’s daughter in the film.