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Field Notes

Diane Vivienne West

Get to know singer, dancer, actress, and current Utah resident Diane Vivienne West!

The Life of a Living Legend

Bright lights, flashing cameras, big stages. You might be picturing your favorite movie star or performer. But what about Diane West? Diane West, a resident of Enoch, Utah, might seem like an ordinary small-town citizen, but her life tells a different story—one of globetrotting adventures and stage performances that spanned continents. In her twenties, Diane crisscrossed the world, captivating audiences with her dancing, singing, acting, and vivacious personality.

Birth of a Legend: Growing up in the 1940s

Just outside of London, in a tiny town called Woolwich, Diane was born. In the early 1940s, very few other children lived in her hometown, so Diane and her sister Adrienne became best friends. Diane was a rambunctious child who gave her teachers a constant headache with her escapades. At age eight she was kicked out of the public school she was attending after throwing a boy’s hat on the roof of the bathrooms.

After leaving public school, Diane attended a Catholic convent to continue her education. Sitting still in a classroom was not the ideal form of education for her. Unbeknownst to her teachers and parents, Diane had a severe case of ADHD, a diagnosis not medically classified until 40 years after Diane was born. As a result, the nuns at the convent treated Diane no differently than previous teachers had, who didn’t know how to work with her. She had more energy that she knew what to do with, which sparked her parents’ solution: dance classes.

Stepping into the Spotlight: The 1950s Dance Scene

When Diane was ten years old, her dance teacher suggested that she audition for Sadlers Wells Ballet School. The dance teacher told Diane’s mother that even though her daughter likely wouldn’t get into the school, auditioning would still be a good experience for her. Diane went to the audition, and against all odds, was accepted into the school on a scholarship. Diane decided to call a newspaper to tell them about her scholarship. She says:

I went to the telephone, and I called up the newspaper and they came down and took photographs, and my mother was going, “How did they find out?” Well, it was me. I was proud of myself! My mother wasn’t proud of me, I was.

A Versatile Education: The Arts Educational School

After a year at Sadlers Wells, her teachers told Diane that her knees were too “knobbly” to continue her ballet education, and instead suggested she attend the Arts Educational School. Diane says she was the only student there who didn’t have a famous relative who got them into the school.

She stayed at the performing arts school for the next six years, learning all types of dancing, acting, public speaking, singing, and even a bit of fencing. Diane said they were taught “anything that might be needed on stage.”

While in school, Diane got a role as an “Ovaltini”—as one of the kids that sang the Ovaltine jingle over the radio. Diane had her first real performance when she was 16, performing in a Christmas pantomime in Cambridge and later in a summer pantomime on the Isle of Wight.

Leaving the Nest: Taking Flight

When Diane was seventeen, she graduated from The Arts Educational School and got a job that took her to Monte Carlo for six months. Her mother, however, was not as sure about this job. What mother would want their 17-year-old to travel over 750 miles away to Monaco for six months by themselves?

Diane’s father, however, had a lot of faith in her. One night after Diane’s mother had left, her father put down the newspaper he was reading, placed enough money on the table for a train ticket to London, and went back to reading. Diane took the money and began her adventures of performing in theatres theaters all around the world.

Global Adventures: Italy and Beyond in the 1960s

Soon after returning from Monaco, Diane moved to Italy where she lived for five years. In Italy she did a six-month revista show, which included dancers, singers, bands and comedians. Diane loved living in Italy, and says the theaters in Italy were the most beautiful she performed in.

While Diane was living in Italy, a man named Paul Steffan saw one of her performances and invited her to join his troupe. She agreed and performed in a few movies he was choreographing: Sinbad, Cleopatra, and The Thief of Bagdad (1961) to name a few.

Diane also had the opportunity to perform on Canzonissima, (1958–1974) a musical variety TV show. Imagine something like The Corny Collins Show from Hairspray (2007), and you’ll have a good idea of what Canzonissima was like.

The World Tour: Performing in the 1960s

After living in Italy, she traveled to Cairo, Egypt, with the Paul Steffan Dancers, where she spent her twenty-first birthday. Diane says they performed every night on the ship in order to pay for passage to Egypt before going to sleep in a hotel overlooking three large pyramids. When describing what the dancers would do during their off time, Diane recounted the following story:

I’ll tell you what, in one of the small towns at a hotel in Italy, the men would take their shoes off and put them outside the doors of their rooms so the maids could come around in the middle of the night and polish the shoes.

We took the shoes and transferred them to all different doors. We had a blast! I wish we had seen their faces when they couldn’t find their shoes. We got a good kick out of it anyway. We got up to some crazy things, let me tell you.

She later traveled with Steffan to Barcelona, Spain, for more shows. It was in Spain that she finally decided to say goodbye to the group. She traveled to Paris to audition for a Folies Bergère show in New York City. She got the part, and within a week of arriving in Paris, was on a boat called the SS United States to New York. She performed in the Folies Bergère on Broadway for only two months, because the show didn’t do as well as expected in NYC.

A Whirlwind Tour: Performing for Troops in the Vietnam War

She stayed in New York for a while, acting in more movies and auditioning for more shows. She traveled all over the United States looking for performing jobs and spent some time in Las Vegas singing and performing in the Sahara Club. While in Nevada she also got a job as a choreographer. She hired three women and traveled with her own little troupe around Nevada with them.

In 1966 Diane got a job with a troupe that would travel around and perform for the US troops fighting in the Vietnam war. She traveled to many cities and towns on the coasts of Vietnam, Hawaii, Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Thailand.

The End of an Era: Settling Down

Diane traveled around the world, from England to France, to Italy and Spain, and to Vietnam and the United States dancing and doing what she was passionate about. Eventually, in 1967 at twenty-seven years old, Diane knew that her time on stage was coming to a close. She decided to end her career to start a family. She settled down in Nevada, USA, and had six children. Today, Diane still has her English accent, and she loves spending time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The Vietnam War was just one of the major world events that Diane lived through, from the ending of WWII, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, all the way up through COVID-19. There may not be bright lights or big stages in Diane’s day-to-day life anymore, but that does not stop her from getting into a bit of trouble every now and again.