Alexander Bennett

Ballet master

Alexander Bennett, a former linguist and spy who became a leading ballet dancer, teacher and ballet master, died February 15 in Scotland. He was 73.

Edinburgh native became hooked on dance by watching Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly movie musicals. He studied French, German and Latin in high school, along with tap and classical piano, but did not begin studying ballet until after his 17th birthday.

He parlayed his linguistic skills into a job with England’s Intelligence Corps, which taught him Russian; the Secret Service posted him to Germany in 1949. The following year he returned to London. He agreed with his parents that he was too old to begin a career in dance, and got a secure job with the Foreign Office, but continued studying dance in his spare time.

In 1951 Marie Rambert offered him a place as a junior member of Ballet Rambert, he reluctantly gave up his day job. Just two years later he was Albrecht in “Giselle” during the company’s Sadler’s Wells season, a performance which won him critical praise. He joined the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet in 1956 and rose through the ranks to become principal dancer. He was one of the rare Royal Ballet recruits not to have gone through the Royal Ballet School system. When he retired from dancing in 1965, he took up ballet-master posts with companies in Brazil and South Africa. He later settled in the U.S., where he directed ensembles such as the Twin Cities Ballet in Illinois and the Scottish-American Ballet in Chattanooga.

He returned to Scotland in 2001, and began working with Ballet West in Argyll. He died in his sleep at his home there.

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