Merle Heath was born on the 9th August 1922 and was the youngest of six children. She began dancing when she was 10 and finished her schooling at age 15 at Golden Point Primary School. She began to dance and teach full time under the direction of Mellah Frizzelle. Merle in 1938 became the first ever Ballarat girl to win the classical solo completion at Royal South Street with a score of 98 and also won the character solo and Pas de Deux.
In 1939, Merle was Victoria’s leading young ballet dancer, she won The Sun Championship Cup at the Victorian society of Dancing Competition in Melbourne – another First for Ballarat. Mellah her teacher, recognised that travel and study in France was the only way for Merle to reach her full potential. Madame Saranova of the Imperial Society of Dancing in Great Britain agreed and said that Merle was the best student that she had seen in years.
A committee was formed to help raise funds for Merle to travel overseas. She gave one performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Ballarat in late 1939 with another planned for the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne the following year. Her Majesty’s Theatre was filled to capacity, the recital a triumph, but WW2 began and ended Merle’s opportunity to dance in Europe. She took a job with the State Electricity Commission and continued to take small classes of ballet students under 1947 when she gave birth to the first of her three children.
Merle was a pioneer of classical dance in Ballarat. She was an inspiration as a dancer and dance teacher. She showed other young people with the desire to dance that their dreams beyond Ballarat were possible, but that they could also make it their home.
Merle passed away on the 29th November 2011 and is buried in Ballarat New Cemetery Lawn E, Row 13, Grave 2