AN AWARD-WINNING ballerina who thrilled audiences in Oxford when she was just 17 has died 80 years later.

Joan Kent, who married to become Joan Ravenscroft, performed extracts from famous ballets such as Swan Lake and Coppélia at the New Theatre in the 1930s.

The 97-year-old was so well remembered that this year the Oxford Playhouse put on an exhibition of pictures of her by photographer Angus McBean.

Mrs Ravenscroft’s niece Jenny Lewis, an Oxford University poetry tutor who lives in Kineton Road, South Oxford, said: “In 2011 she met some of the young people from Pegasus Youth Theatre companies who were all riveted by the tales she had to tell of her dancing past.

“Everyone said she was more like a 40-year-old than her real age – which at that time was 93.”

Mrs Ravenscroft was born in Coulsdon, Surrey, on April 27, 1918, to Emily Maud, a dressmaker, and businessman Sidney Kent.

She had a sister, Kathleen, born in 1903 and a brother Eric, known as Billy, born in 1904.

The family moved to Covent Garden, London, when Mrs Ravenscroft was just six years old.

At age seven she started learning ballet at the Cone School of Dancing.

She first appeared in public aged 12, playing a costermonger in a cabaret at Dickens and Jones tearooms.

At age 13, she won a prize in the Sunshine Babies Competition at the Scala Theatre, impressing Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet, who invited her to join the Vic-Wells Ballet.

Mrs Ravenscroft reluctantly declined as her mother insisted that she complete her education.

The Cone, sisters agreed to set up a small school for Mrs Ravenscroft and six other pupils combining dancing with academic subjects.

At the age of 17 she joined the Markova-Dolin Ballet Company, wowing Oxford audiences with solos and group dances.

From 1939 to 1941 she and other Markova members joined the Arts Theatre Ballet.

In 1936 she joined the Women’s Air Force, choreographing and performing in their revue.

In February 1942 she married James Anthony Ravenscroft at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden.

The couple had three children – Richard in 1943, Paul in 1948 and Mary in 1953. As well as dancing, her hobbies were gardening and teaching relaxation classes.

Mrs Ravenscroft died peacefully on Saturday, November 28, at her home in Hertfordshire. She is survived by her three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Her funeral will be on Wednesday at 11.30am at East Chapel, Breakspear Crematorium, Ruislip.