Some commentators have called Alexander Grant the greatest male dancer ever produced by a British company - an outstanding accomplishment for a New Zealander born in 1925 and raised in Wellington.
Alexander Grant started dancing classes at the age of seven, eventually winning a Royal Academy of Dance scholarship to study in London. However, the war intervened and he was 21 before he was able to travel to England to continue his training at the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School. After only two weeks of his first tour, he was recalled to Covent Garden to join the main company. Less than a year after his arrival in London he was a soloist, and had already created his first role for Frederick Ashton, ‘The Boy Who Jumps Through A Hoop’ in Les Sirènes. His first notable success came in 1947 as ‘The Dandy’ in Leonide Massine’s The Three-Cornered Hat. He later partnered Margot Fonteyn in another Massine work, Mam'zelle Angot, and then came the first of his most famous characterisations – ‘The Jester’ in Ashton's Cinderella.
A range of roles followed. In 1964, Grant returned to New Zealand as a guest of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, to dance the leading role in Russell Kerr’s production of Fokine’s Petrouchka. For several years in the 1970s, he directed the New Zealand Ballet's educational group, Ballet for All and from 1976 he worked for seven years as director of the National Ballet of Canada.
In recognition of his services to ballet, Queen Elizabeth II made him a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1965. He received his Arts Foundation Icon Award in 2005, followed by the QEII Coronation Award, the highest award given by the Royal Academy of Dance for his services to dance in 2007. He was the recipient of De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement at the Critics Circle National Dance Awards 2009. Grant continued to work with ballet companies in Europe, America, China, Turkey, Russia and Japan until the end of his life.
Alexander Grant died 30 September 2011