Dance Stars : Donald Britton

Tap dancer turned ballet star, Donald Britton is an inspiration to male dancers

Anyone looking for inspiration as a male ballet dancer need not look much further than Donald Britton. Born in London in 1929, Britton was originally interested in pursuing a career as a tap dancer, though at the age of six he found himself falling in love with ballet, when he lived with his family above a ballet school. From there began his life-long love and fascination of ballet.

Donald then went on to study ballet at a professional level, first with the Maddock School in London, later followed by Lilian Godwin in Bristol, and during the Second World War he joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School. At the age of sixteen, Donald was chosen by the school to be a founding member of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet.

Donald briefly joined the army to complete his national service, though as soon as this was over, he went straight back to his true love – ballet. In 1951 he re-joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School, where his career really took off during the 1950’s.

Donald was known as a very unique dancer, which not many others could compete with at that time – he had a very strong masculine stage presence, which made only him suitable for certain parts. Many solo parts were written especially for Donald by leading choreographers, including, Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and John Cranko.

In 1965, Britton started teaching at the Royal Ballet School, where he continued to take on roles in many musicals. He then went on to further his teaching career, before moving to France in 1978, where he founded the New Danse Studio.