Stanley Holden, an acclaimed character dancer in Britain’s Royal Ballet who went on to teach generations of dancers in Southern California, died May 11 of complications from heart problems and colon cancer in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 79.
Holden was born in the slums of London, and his mother encouraged him to try ballet lessons when he was 13. Three years later he was accepted into the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company, which later became the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden.
At the Royal Ballet, Holden created roles in John Cranko’s “Harlequin in April” (1951) and Frederick Ashton’s “La Fille Mal Gardee” (1960) and “Enigma Variations” (1968). He retired in 1969 after dancing the travesty role of Widow Simone in “Fille” at the Royal Opera House. He received a 25-minute standing ovation.
Holden moved to Los Angeles in 1970 to become director of the Academy of Dance at the Music Center. He left after a year to establish his own studio, the Stanley Holden Dance Center on Pico Boulevard.
For nearly 30 years he taught classes there that were sought out by such dance luminaries as Gelsey Kirkland, Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, as well as Juliet Prowse and Mary Tyler Moore.
For the last 12 years, Holden had taught at the California Dance Theatre in Agoura Hills, giving classes until seven weeks ago.
Holden cut back his activities after undergoing heart surgery in 1980 and 1996.
Holden is survived by his wife Judy, three children, a stepdaughter, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.