FromThe New York Times:
"Alexander Grant, Dancer With Royal Ballet, Dies at 86
By ANNA KISSELGOFF
Published: October 3, 2011
Alexander Grant, whose portrayal of childlike suitors, muddled husbands, English eccentrics, pirate chiefs and Shakespearean rustics made him one of British ballet’s most beloved stars, died on Friday in London. He was 86.
His death was confirmed by Jean-Pierre Gasquet, his longtime companion. Mr. Grant had been ill for eight months after a hip operation left him hospitalized with infections and pneumonia.
Mr. Grant was especially acclaimed for his magnetic personality and vigorous demi-caractère style, particularly in Frederick Ashton’s works for the Royal Ballet.
Seeing Mr. Grant as the complete dancer, Clive Barnes, dance critic of The New York Times, reviewed him in Ashton’s Neapolitan Dance for “Swan Lake” in 1969 and proclaimed him “one of the few great, as opposed to merely magnificent, dancers of our time.”
Mr. Grant also played an influential role in international ballet. He served as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada from 1976 to 1983 and staged Ashton’s “Fille Mal Gardée” in many companies, including American Ballet Theater.
Mr. Grant himself is perhaps best remembered for the role he originated in “Fille” as Alain, the rich farmer’s son rejected by Lise, a rich widow’s daughter who marries her poor sweetheart.
More in love with his red umbrella than with Lise, Alain could be mistaken for a simpleton. But Mr. Grant made him a gentle childlike figure who had not experienced the world. The trick was to dance so well that Alain looked slightly clumsy but not too much so.
In another memorable role seen with the Royal in New York, he was Bottom in “The Dream,” Ashton’s version of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Transformed into a donkey, Mr. Grant danced a virtuosic solo in toe shoes disguised as hooves.
Although many called Mr. Grant a character dancer, he was more of a classical dancer who used ballet technique in a demi-caractère style, which is less concerned with academic niceties.
In his early years, he showed off a swashbuckling bravura: his pirate chief in Ashton’s “Daphnis and Chloë” exploded into a frenzy of leaps after abducting Margot Fonteyn’s Chloë, wrapping her around his neck and throwing her to the floor.
Alexander Grant was born on Feb. 22, 1925, in Wellington, New Zealand, where his parents were in the hotel business.
Having studied dance since the age of 7, he was offered a ballet scholarship in London. He arrived there in February 1946 and was invited two months later into the Sadler’s Wells Theater Ballet, the recently formed junior troupe of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (which became the Royal Ballet in 1956). Short on male dancers in the postwar period, Ninette de Valois, founder of both troupes, invited him into the senior company in September of 1946.
Ashton, now considered Britain’s greatest choreographer but not yet internationally known, created a small role for Mr. Grant in 1946 in one of his lesser ballets, “Les Sirènes.”
It was Leonide Massine, then ballet’s most prominent choreographer, who brought the young dancer to public notice.
Invited as a guest choreographer by de Valois, Massine cast Mr. Grant in his revivals and two new works. Massine’s farce-like “Mam’zelle Angot” gave Mr. Grant a major success in the choreographer’s idiosyncratic comic style.
“I was given this role by Massine which typed me as that kind of dancer for the rest of my life, Mr. Grant said in later years. “I don’t regret it.” Nor did he regret never portraying a prince or count in 19th-century classics like “Swan Lake” or “Giselle.”
It was Mr. Grant’s ability to portray a character through dancing rather than mime that made him outstanding. Ashton recognized this quality and cast him as the Jester in his new “Cinderella” (1948).
During his 30 years as a dancer in the Royal Ballet (1946 to 1976) Mr. Grant appeared in 30 Ashton ballets, creating roles in 22 premieres. Occasionally he was thrust into Ashton neo-classical works like “Symphonic Variations” and he appeared in Michel Fokine’s “Petrouchka” and ballets by de Valois.
In the 1971 film “Tales of Beatrix Potter,” Mr. Grant danced on toe again as Pigling Bland and was also featured as Peter Rabbit.
In addition to Mr. Gasquet, his partner of 54 years, Mr. Grant is survived by his brother, Garry Grant, also a former dancer in the Royal Ballet.
Mr. Grant was seen as an inspiration to Ashton and even as a collaborator. The range he displayed in Ashton ballets alone was testimony to their joint creativity.
In “Enigma Variations,” a meditative Ashton masterpiece about the composer Edward Elgar and his friends, Mr. Grant’s terse expressiveness summed up an entire personality in a brief comic solo. For his final Ashton role, he offered a moving image of a lovelorn Russian husband in “A Month in the Country” (1976)."