Ballet dancer

Henry Danton, ballet dancer, instructor dies at 102 in Mississippi

Henri Danton of Petal, who danced for many years with the royal ballet in London and taught his trade to students in southern Mississippi died on February 9. He was 102 years old.

Danton moved to southern Mississippi in the 1990s and began teaching ballet in Hattiesburg, Petal, Columbia and Laurel and occasionally at Belhaven College in Jackson.

In 2020, the Mississippi Art’s Commission awarded him the Governor’s Arts Award for his entire dance career.

Before moving to Petal in 1996, Danton had lived in New York and Miami.

He was born in Bedford, England. His father, a British soldier, was killed at the end of the First World War. After the death of his father, Danton received a royal cadet to pay for his studies, all in military schools, before joining the army.

He graduated from the military academy in 1938 as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and served briefly before falling from a truck, injuring his back. He received a medical discharge.

In 1940, when the 21-year-old’s military career was over, he changed course and found a career in ballet, something he had always wanted to do.

Although he had no dance training, he was an avid skater. He said he fell in love with ballet when he saw the last performance by a Russian company in Covent Garden in London before the start of World War II.

At school, Danton did something unheard of: “I passed all the exams in 18 months (at the Royal Academy of Dancing).” he says in a previous story. “It must be a record.”

The ballet is in its courtyard:100 years still dancing after all these years

He quickly gained fame in the 1940s, not only because of his talent but because ballet was not a very popular art at the time and there were very few male dancers.

He was in the original production of Frederick Ashton’s “Symphonic Variations”, performed at Covent Garden in 1946. He performed alongside well-known dancers Margot Fonteyn, Moira Shearer, Pamela May, Michael Somes and Brian Shaw of what is now known as the Royal Ballet.

During World War II, professional dancers stranded in London started the small Allied ballet with few resources, which lasted only a few weeks, Danton said.

Sadler’s Wells Ballet and the International Ballet were also starting out and Danton immersed himself in them.

“It was absolutely ridiculous. I had 18 months of training behind me and I was dancing lead roles with a top ballerina,” Danton said.

At 100, when he flew to celebrate his centenary, he received the Genée Competition Medal which he was to receive in 1942.

A celebration of Danton’s life will be held at 2 p.m., March 20, at the South Mississippi Ballet Theater, 5296 Old Highway 11, Hattiesburg.

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