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Repertory Archive

Alexander Grant



Alexander Grant has enjoyed one of the most significant careers in dance.  He was a member of The Royal Ballet for thirty years, creating more than twenty roles in works by Frederick Ashton.  He also danced the world premieres in ballets by John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan.  In recognition of his services to ballet, Queen Elizabeth II made him a Commander of the British Empire in 1965.

Grant joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, later to be called The Royal Ballet, in 1946, six months after he arrived in London from his native New Zealand.  He was promoted to soloist in 1949.

He quickly appeared in a number of leading roles including Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations and Robert Helpmann’s Hamlet.  His first notable success came in 1947 as the Dandy in Leonide Massine’s The Three Cornered Hat.  He later partnered Margot Fonteyn in another Massine work Mam’zelle Angot.

By 1952, Grant had created major roles in Ninette de Valois’ Don Quixote, Roland Petit’s Ballbile and John Cranko’s Bonne Bouche.

Ashton perhaps best understood Grant#8217;s unique ability to convey a subtle mixture of comedy and pathos.  He created nearly twenty roles for him including Alain in La Fille mal gardée, Bottom in The Dream, William Meath Baker in Enigma Variations, Thursday’s Child in Jazz Calendar and Yslaev in A Month in the Country.

From 1971 until 1975, Grant directed the Royal’s small touring company, Ballet for All, in addition to appearing with the main company.  The ensemble presented a program which traced the Company’s early history, The Birth of The Royal Ballet, and two children’s programs, The World of Harlequin and Romeo and Juliet:  Ballet and Play.

In 1976, Grant accepted an invitation to become director of the National Ballet of Canada.  During Grant’s tenure he added works by Jerome Robbins, Glen Tetley, Hans van Manen, Kenneth MacMillan and Maurice Bejart to the repertoire and encouraged the early choreographic efforts by Ann Ditchburn and James Kudelka, who now directs the Canadian company.  The Canadians also performed several Ashton works including The Dream, The Two Pigeons, Monotones, Les Patineurs and La Fille mal gardée, which the choreographer personally supervised.

After leaving the company in 1983, Grant worked with the English National Ballet as a coach and character dancer.  He also staged La Fille mal gardée and Façade with companies all over the world including The Royal Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet and, in 2002, the Bolshoi Ballet.  The Pennsylvania Ballet and Boston Ballet will dance La Fille mal gardée in 2003.

Grant died in September, 2011 at the age of 86.