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Born in Copenhagen, Erik Bruhn was noted for his outstanding classical technique, who appeared mainly as a guest artist with North American and European companies.
Bruhn entered the training school for the Royal Danish Ballet in 1937, joined the company in 1947, and was promoted to soloist in 1949. To enrich his repertory, he took a leave of absence (1949-58) to dance with the American Ballet Theatre; after relinquishing his permanent membership with the Royal Danish Ballet (1961), he again danced with American Ballet Theatre. He also performed with such companies as the New York City Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Australian Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the Paris Opera Ballet.
Frequently described as an ideal danseur noble, Bruhn was noted for his exceptionally graceful portrayals in such 19th-century Romantic ballets as La Sylphide, Giselle, and Swan Lake. He was also praised for his interpretations of Jean in Miss Julie and Don Jose in Carmen and for his performances on American television. In 1967, he was appointed Director of Ballet at the Royal Swedish Opera House, a position that he held until 1972. Thereafter he was chiefly associated with Canada’s National Ballet, first as an Assistant Director and then as Director from 1983 until his death in 1986.