Sir Anton Dolin was the foremost English male ballet
dancer of the twentieth century, and central to many of the ballet companies that developed in England. He was a prominent choreographer
for them and others. His most regular dancing partner, Dame Alicia Markova
, was also his co-founder of some of these.
He was born Patrick Kay, or in full Sydney Francis Patrick Chippendall Healey-Kay, in Slinford, in Sussex, on 27 July 1904, son of an amateur cricketer. He took his first dancing lessons at the age of ten, in Hove on the south coast, and débuted in London as the Black Cat in Bluebell in Fairyland for Christmas 1915, when he was eleven. He also appeared as John in Peter Pan.
His first serious ballet training was in 1913, under Seraphine Astafieva. He appeared in Serge Diaghilev's ballet The Sleeping Princess in 1921 under the Russified name of Patrikéeff, and in June 1923 first appeared under the name Anton Dolin, at the Royal Albert Hall. In November of that year he joined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.
Dolin's first important role was Beau Gosse in Bronislava Nijinska's Le Train Bleu, a tale of sporting types disporting themselves on the beach at Deauville, to music of Milhaud. He did this first in Paris in 1924, then débuted with it in London. Leaving the Ballets Russes in 1925, he rejoined them in 1928, and danced with stars including Tamara Karsavina in Petrouchka, Olga Spessivtseva in Swan Lake*, and Lydia Lopokova. He did Balanchine's Prodigal Son in 1929. With Diaghilev's death in 1929 he returned to England.
In the 1925-28 interval Dolin had done revues and musicals, but also ballet with Karsavina and de Valois. With Vera Nemchinova, with whom he did a continental tour, he founded an English Ballet Company in 1927. Its members included Frederick Ashton. After Diaghilev he returned to those who were creating the new world of English ballet: with the Camargo Society, a group formed to support and commission new ballet, from 1930 to 1934, and with Ninette de Valois's new-formed Vic-Wells ballet at Sadler's Wells, the precursor of the Royal Ballet.
The most famous role he created in this new ferment was Satan in de Valois's Job, a Masque for Dancing, to music of Vaughan Williams, in 1931. He was succeeded in the role in 1933 by the up-and-coming Robert Helpmann.
Dolin and Alicia Markova founded their own company in 1935, lasting until 1938, with the choreographer Bronislava Nijinska (Nijinsky's sister) as ballet mistress. A second Dolin-Markova company lasted from 1945 to 1948. From 1937 he was on world tours, and spent much of the war years in America, where he was a leading figure in the Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre) from its inception in 1940, until 1946. For them he did original choreography for Capriccioso (1940), The Romantic Age (1942), and in later years Variations for Four (1957). He danced Fokine's Bluebeard in Mexico City in 1941, which he had originally done for the Vic-Wells in 1934.
From 1948 he was guest dancer for Sadler's Wells, and in November 1950 he and Markova founded their final company, the London Festival Ballet, which survives to this day as English National Ballet. he was their principal dancer until 1961, when he moved to take up the ballet directorship of the Rome Opera.
Author of numerous books on ballet including a 1960 autobiography, Dolin played the dancing master Enrico Cecchetti in the 1980 biopic Nijinsky, was knighted in 1981, and died suddenly in Paris on 25 November 1983.
Most facts from Dictionary of National Biography and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Inspiration and wishes that I'd seen it all, from my own heart. Unexplained softlink to Bolt Thrower by someone else.
* The DNB actually says Lac, which I'm guessing means Lac des Cygnes, i.e. Swan Lake.