Frederic Franklin: Dancer who championed modern ballet in the US

 

Frederic Franklin, who died on 4 May at the age of 98, was a British-born dancer who helped popularise modern ballet in the US and performed until his mid-90s.

Franklin last appeared with the American Ballet Theatre at the Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts three years ago, as a friar in Romeo And Juliet. "He gave me my first job, and I gave him his last," the company's artistic director, Kevin McKenzie, said. "He was a seminal figure in the ballet world."

Franklin, who was born in Liverpool in 1914, went off to Paris at 17 to dance in cabaret, starting with Janet Baker – "We boys were at the bottom of the stairs while she made her entrance, topless," he recalled – then in 1938 joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which had been formed by old colleagues of Serge Diaghilev.

He toured the US with them in the 1950s. and when the company folded he freelanced, formed his own company and worked briefly for the American Ballet Theatre, but it wasn't until 1996 that he rejoined them, initially as a director until McKenzie suggested he return to the stage himself.

"His death puts a period to an era in the dance world," McKenzie said. "He epitomised both the old ballets and the modern ones, and he helped establish the importance of classical ballet in the United States."

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