David Ashmole: Ballet dancer and teacher whose elegance made him ideal for the princely 'danseur noble' roles

David Ashmole, principal dancer and teacher, who died too young and too unexpectedly, was, in the ballet terminology of older times, a danseur noble, a dancer destined to play princes, because he combines elegance with long, beautiful lines. "Any position he took, it always looked beautiful," said the former ballerina Margaret Barbieri, who had a lengthy working relationship with him. "I always think of him as our beautiful David. Yet he was always humble; he never pushed himself; and that is so rare in our profession." For those and other qualities he will be remembered by audiences in Britain, where he danced with the two Royal Ballet companies, and by audiences in Australia, who knew him as a member of the Australian Ballet.

Born on 31 October 1949 in the East Riding village of Cottingham (also the birthplace of Sir Brian Rix and burial place of Philip Larkin), he was accepted into the Royal Ballet School at the age of 15 and joined the Royal Ballet three years later in 1968. There he made rapid progress, dancing central roles in ballets by Frederick Ashton (Cinderella, Symphonic Variations, The Two Pigeons) and MacMillan (Romeo and Juliet), and was made a principal in 1975. The same year he joined the touring sister company, Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet (now Birmingham Royal Ballet).

This expanded his repertoire considerably: from the fickle-hearted Franz in Coppélia to the regal Oberon in The Dream, from the classical grandeur of Raymonda to the neo-classicism of The Four Temperaments. He also had many roles created on him: by the company's then-director Peter Wright (Summertide), the present director David Bintley (Swan of Tuonela, Night Moves, Homage to Chopin) and Michael Corder (Three Pictures).

He made guest appearances in Japan, Germany and South Africa, and with Scottish Ballet. He was one of the leading dancers in a BBC broadcast of Ashton's Les Rendezvous, a suite of dances demanding musicality and charm; and, with Margaret Barbieri, took part in a BBC Master Class given by the great ballerina Dame Alicia Markova.

In 1984, when his wife and fellow-dancer Petal Miller decided to return home to Australia, he accepted a contract with the Australian Ballet. Glen Tetley created the title role of Orpheus on him. When in 1990 the Australian Ballet came to the New York Metropolitan House he was the cruel Roman General Crassus in Laszlo Seregi's version of Spartacus. About this, The New York Times critic Anna Kisselgoff wrote: "He had the right physique and weighted gesture to command both the stage and the Romans." Remembering Ashmole from earlier New York performances as one of the Royal Ballet's "rising young classical soloists", she also praised his strong dramatic interpretation as Albrecht in Giselle during the same New York season.

With the Australian Ballet he also toured China, the Soviet Union, Japan, Europe and the UK. He was the prince in the performance of The Sleeping Beauty, attended by the Queen, which opened the company's 1988 London season. The DVD of that production features him in the same role.

He retired in 1993 and after a break concentrated on teaching. It was partly because of Margaret Barbieri that he returned to live in London. As director of the classical section of the London Studio Centre, she was keen to use him. This eventually became a full-time commitment when she offered him a permanent contract as Head of the Boys classes and, when, coincidentally, his wife Petal was invited to teach at the Royal Ballet School.

"I adored dancing with him," Barbieri said of their stage partnership, "and I was so happy that we could carry on working together as teachers." He passed on the qualities that made him such a good pas de deux partner. "As a dancer, he put his partner first and, as a teacher, he stressed the importance of always making sure the girl looked good."

Dance was his passion. "He just loved to dance. He was so dedicated. It didn't matter how exhausting a performance had been the previous night, he was always right there in class the next day." As a person, he was rather reserved. "But he was a very warm and caring person."

Nadine Meisner



David Ashmole, dancer and teacher: born Cottingham, Yorkshire 31 October 1949; married Petal Miller; died London 25 July 2009.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice