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Frederic Franklin

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Frederic Franklin as the Baron in Léonide Massine's Gaité Parisienne


Frederic Franklin is a dancer, ballet master, and artistic director whose career longevity and radiant stage presence have made him a beloved performer as well as a vital force in the survival of 20th-century ballet. Born in Liverpool, England, on June 13, 1914, he studied ballet in London and Paris and began his career in 1931, performing in musical comedies, cabaret, and vaudeville before joining the Markova-Dolin Ballet in 1935. He was a premier danseur with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1938 to 1952, touring extensively in the United States and other countries, and forming a legendary stage partnership with Alexandra Danilova. He has worked with many of the great ballerinas and great choreographers of the 20th century, and also performed on Broadway and in films and television. Generously passing on his wealth of knowledge, Franklin has staged ballets for companies around the world, acted as a long-time artistic advisor to Dance Theatre of Harlem and other companies, and was the founding director of the Slavenska-Franklin Ballet and the National Ballet in Washington, D.C. Known to many affectionately as "Freddie" Franklin, he continued to perform character roles and to stage works and coach dancers into his 90s.

Pictured left: Frederic Franklin as the Baron in Léonide Massine's Gaité Parisienne, with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The debonair Baron, who dances with a glove-seller portrayed by Alexandra Danilova, was one of Franklin's signature roles, exemplifying his theatrical flair, and he frequently performed it throughout America on Ballet Russe tours. (Photograph by Maurice Seymour. Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.)  


Read an essay by Jack Anderson -- Selected resources


Frederic Franklin in Léonide Massine's Rouge et NoirFrederic Franklin by Maurice SeymourFrederic Franklin in Agnes de Mille's Rodeo












Pictured left: Frederic Franklin in Léonide Massine's Rouge et Noir, 1940, with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. One of Massine's "symphonic ballets," it had music by Dmitri Shostakovich and décor and costumes by Henri Matisse. Franklin's career encompassed a wide range of styles, from traditional to modern and dramatic to abstract. (Photograph by Maurice Seymour. Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.) 

Pictured middle: Frederic Franklin in costume for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production of The Nutcracker, ca. 1940. Edwin Denby wrote of Franklin, "like a true artist, he is completely at the service of the role he takes, and his straight delight in dancing, his forthright presence and openhearted nature give his version of the great classic roles a lyric grace that is fresh and sweet." (Photo by Maurice Seymour, from the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives.) 

Pictured right: Frederic Franklin in Agnes de Mille's Rodeo. Jack Anderson writes that the English-born Franklin "in many way exemplifies the internationalism of contemporary ballet and the versatility of contemporary ballet artists," as demonstrated by his success playing a cowboy in de Mille's quintessential dance portrait of the American west. (Photograph by Maurice Seymour. Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection, The Newberry Library, Chicago.)



Frederic Franklin and Alexandra Danilova dancing an excerpt from Léonide Massine's Gaité Parisienne, with music by Jacques Offenbach, recorded at Jacob's Pillow in 1948. The long-running, legendary partnership between Franklin and Danilova grew from their charismatic stage presences, dramatic rapport, and popularity with audiences, particularly in Massine's exuberant ballet about amorous encounters in a Parisian café.

(Courtesy of the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives.)