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Nicholas Johnson

Ballet dancer Nicholas Johnson died on January 29, aged 59, after a lengthy battle against cancer.

Born in London on September 12, 1947, he trained at the Royal Ballet School, joining the touring company in 1965, becoming soloist in 1968 and principal in 1970.

He transferred to the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in 1973 and there performed in several ballets, such as From Waking Sleep, Sacred Circles and Glen Tetley’s Field Figures. The roles he created included Colas, Albrecht, Oberon, Captain Belaye, Franz and Lescaut.

He also appeared in more modern works, including Hans van Manen’s Grosse Fugue and The Maids by Herbert Ross.

Johnson joined London Festival Ballet as principal dancer in 1975 and continued to dance with the company until 1990. Always an actor-dancer, he notably created the role of Mercutio in Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet in 1977. His many other roles included the princes in the classics, Basilio in Don Quixote, James in La Sylphide, The Miller in Le Tricorne and the title roles in Petrouchka and the Spectre de la Rose. Towards the end of his dancing career he added character roles to his repertoire.

In 1984 Johnson appeared in the musical On Your Toes with Natalia Makarova. After leaving English National Ballet he worked as an actor, most notably as Nijinsky in Death of a Faune, written for him by David Pownall. He had previously appeared as Nijinsky in the film Nijinsky, The God of Dance.

One of a rare breed – the British male principal dancer – he leaves his wife Laura Connor, dancer with The Royal Ballet, and son Nathan Damian.

Gavin Roebuck