Born in Liverpool, England, Frederic Franklin claimed that on seeing Peter Pan, his only thought was to go on the stage. He began his career in 1931 at the Casino de Paris with Josephine Baker, briefly danced with the Vic-Wells (early Royal Ballet) and joined the Markova-Dolin Ballet in 1935. Three years later, Franklin became a dancer with Leonide Massine’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, where he was premier danseur until 1952. Known as a quick study and for having an impeccable memory, Franklin also became the company’s ballet master in 1944. With the Ballet Russe, Franklin originated many indelible characters and starred in over 45 principal roles by such choreographers as Massine, Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Ruth Page and Valerie Bettis. While performing internationally with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Frederic Franklin and Alexandra Danilova created one of the legendary ballet partnerships of the twentieth century. Among the other ballerinas he partnered were Alicia Markova, Irina Baronova, Agnes de Mille, Ruthanna Boris, Yvette Chauviré, Moira Shearer, Rosella Hightower, Maria Tallchief, Tamara Toumanova, Alicia Alonso, and Lois Ellyn.
In 1952, Franklin co-founded the Slavenska-Franklin Ballet, and a few years later he became the co-director of the Washington Ballet, and then the co-founder and artistic director of the National Ballet of Washington, D.C.. After a few years in Washington, D.C., Franklin began a free-lance career reviving and staging works around the United States, and he developed a long-standing artistic association with many ballet companies, including Cincinnati Ballet (where he was artistic director for two years and later Director Emeritus), Dance Theatre of Harlem (where Franklin officially became artistic advisor as of 1989), Chicago Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, the Oakland Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and American Ballet Theatre, to name a few.
In 1984, Frederic Franklin was honored with a Laurence Olivier Award for his staging of a Creole-themed Giselle (starring Virginia Johnson) at Dance Theatre of Harlem. Franklin received the Dance Magazine Award in 1985 and the Capezio Dance Award in 1992. On 16 November 2004 Franklin was appointed a Commander of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire., and in 2011, Franklin was inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame.
In 2005, Franklin was featured in the documentary film Ballets Russes, recounting his years with the famous company. In his 90s, Franklin continued to perform with American Ballet Theatre, appearing in mime roles such as the Friar in in Romeo and Juliet, Madge in La Sylphide, and the Prince´s Tutor in Swan Lake. Franklin succumbed to complications from pneumonia in New York City at the Weill Cornell Medical Center on May 4, 2013. He was 98. He is survived by his partner of 48 years, William Haywood Ausman, and his brother, John Franklin.
- June, 13, 1914
- United Kingdom
- Liverpool, England
- May, 04, 2013
- Manhattan, New York City, New York