Born 19 November 1930, died 1 May 2020
Anne Heaton, a much loved principal dancer with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet/The Royal Ballet, a teacher of countless generations of ballet students and dancers, and possessed of a larger than life personality who engaged the ballet world in many different ways, has died at the age of 89.
Heaton was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on 19 November 1930. She studied ballet in Birmingham from 1937 to 1943 and then joined the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School. She was just 15 when she made her professional debut with the Sadler’s Wells Opera in The Bartered Bride, going on to appear in many different works, and proving her exceptional talent right from the start. Early in her career she danced both the mazurka and the prelude in Les Sylphides, the Young Girl in Le Spectre de la Rose and the Sugar Plum Fairy in Casse Noisette. She danced the leads in Andrée Howard’s Mardi Gras as well as in Ashton’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales and later achieved great success in the Polka in his Façade. She was most at home in dramatic and Romantic roles and was a memorable Giselle. She created roles in MacMillan’s The Burrow (1958) and The Invitation (1960). Her career was to come to a premature end in 1959 at the age of 28 when she made the decision to stop due to severe arthritis in her foot. She did, however, make occasional guest appearances until 1962.
After retiring, she taught at Arts Educational Schools, as well as staging ballets for various different companies across the world. In 1984, she and her husband John Field, took over and co-directed the British Ballet Organisation (now called bbodance) until 1991, just a few weeks before he died. Between them they developed the syllabi and examinations for bbodance and these have been digitised and preserved for current and future use. These syllabi were officially recognised by the Council for Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre (CDMT).
During Field’s tenure as artistic director of London Festival Ballet (1979 to 1984), Heaton was regularly by his side, watching performances, offering rare but precious words of advice and encouragement which were always delivered with her trademark sense of humour which never seemed to elude her.
Obituary by Deborah Weiss