Sir Anton Dolin
Dancer and choreographer Anton Dolin has been called “one of the most colorful and vital
figures in modern ballet.” As a member of internationally known ballet companies or as director of
his own troupes, this British-born artist has toured Europe and America for the past twenty years.
Anton Dolin, originally Patrick Healey-Kay, was born on July 27, 1904, in Slinfold,
Sussex, England. He is one of the three sons of George Henry and Helen Maude (Healey) Kay.
When he was ten years of age his parents moved from Slinfold to Brighton. It was at about this
time that the boy made up his mind to become a dancer. Although his parents tried to discourage
him from dancing, they sent him to Miss Claire James’ Academy of Dancing and later to the
Misses Grace and Lily Cone, who came to London each week to give lessons in Brighton. After
the boy danced and acted at the Brighton Hippodrome Theatre, the manager of the theater
suggested that he be sent to London for training in dramatics. In the metropolis Pat studied under
Italia Conti, and at the same time he attended the Pitman School for instruction in stenography
In 1917, a month after attending a performance of Princess Seraphina Astafieva’s
Swinburne Ballet, the thirteen-year-old boy registered for lessons with the Russian ballerina.
A former pupil of the Imperial School and at one time principal dancer in the Diaghilev Ballet Russe,
Astafieva was then conducting the only school of Russian ballet in London, which stressed the
importance of the individual dancer in ballet. After Pat had been her student for about four years,
the famous Diaghilev visited the school one day in search of promising young dancers for extras in
The Sleeping Princess. It was then that the seventeen-year-old youth was given his first dancing
bit, a part in Diaghilev’s chorus.
The Sleeping Princess had a three-month run, after which the young dancer returned to
school for two more years of instruction. On August 26, 1923, under the name of the
Anglo-Russian Ballet, Astafieva put on a large scale production with her pupils as the principal
dancers. For this first solo appearance Patrick Healey-Kay decided to choose a Russian name as
he thought it would be an excellent joke. He found “Anton” in a Chekhov volume, but had
difficulty in selecting an easily pronounced surname until someone at the school suggested
“Dolin.” The program for the performance thus announced that Anton Dolin would appear in two
solo dances of his own composition: Hymn to the Sun and Danse russe. And Astafieva, feeling
that her pupil was now ready to be accepted for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, sent Anton Dolin to
Paris, where she had arranged an interview with the producer.
In November of that year (1923) Dolin was made a member of the Diaghilev company,
which was then dancing in Monte Carlo. Before his next appearance before an audience, however,
he devoted two months to intensive practice with Bronislava Nijinska, maitresse de ballet. His
debut was made on January 1, 1924, in the role of Daphnis in the classical ballet Daphnis and
Chloe. His next appearance was as Beau Gosse in the production in Paris in June 1924 of Jean
In the next two years Dolin developed rapidly as a Diaghilev artist, but at the end of the
1925 season he and the impresario quarreled, causing Dolin, then the premier dancer, to leave the
The following July Dolin appeared in the Punch Bowl Revue at His Majesty’s Theatre,
and after the show closed, at the beginning of 1926, he accepted an offer to dance in the musical
revue Palladium Pleasures. Afterward, with Phyllis Bedells as his dancing partner at the
Coliseum, he produced several “nursery rhyme” choreographies. Further ballet and revue
engagements were followed in 1927 by an appearance in the revue White Birds (1927).
With Vera Nemchinova, one of his former colleagues in the Diaghilev company, Dolin
next formed the Nemchinova-Dolin Ballet, dancing in Swan Lake and his own The Nightingale
and the Rose.
During the following two years Dolin and Nemchinova toured Holland, Germany,
France, and Spain, offering among other compositions, Dolin’s Revolution, Espagnol, and
Rhapsody in Blue. The Nemchinova-Dolin company was disbanded early in 1929, Dolin rejoining
the Ballet Russe. The second engagement lasted only a short while-Diaghilev’s death in August
1929 causing the termination of the group. But Dolin had, with the Diaghilev company, created
important roles-in Balanchine’s Le Bal and Le Fils prodigue. It was at about this time, too, that
he danced with the budding ballerina Alicia Markova, eventually to be called “the greatest
Dolin’s first New York appearance, on February 25, 1930, featured him, together with
Argentina and Gertrude Lawrence, in The International Revue, but the American critics were not
enthusiastic and the revue closed after a few months.
Dolin then returned to London, where he
danced in two more revues, Charlot’s Masquerade and Stand Up and Sing. His next engagement
took him to Berlin as ballet master and dancer for Max Reinhardt’s production of The Tales of
Hoffmann. Upon returning to his native land, Anton Dolin joined the newly established Camargo
Society Ballet, a British organization trying to revive ballet in England. It was with this group that
Dolin danced the role of Satan in Job for the first time.
From 1931 to 1935 Dolin appeared in revues and was guest dancer with the Vic-Wells
Ballet, of which Markova was the new premier dancer. After four years of this dual arrangement,
Dolin and Markova in 1935 left the Vic-Wells company to form their own ballet troupe with
Dolin as director and both the artists as stars. Early in 1938, however, Markova left to become
the principal ballerina of Massine’s newly organized Ballet Russe, while Dolin continued to dance
in revues in England and later in Australia.
As principal dancers of New York’s Ballet Theatre Dolin and Markova resumed dancing
together in 1941. As choreographer with the troupe, Dolin recreated for modern audiences the
nineteenth century classics Giselle, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, and The Sleeping Beauty, and
composed his own ballets, Romantic Age, Quintet, and Pas de Quatre.
In the winter of 1944-45 Dolin and his partner Markova were seen in Billy Rose’s
production, Seven Lively Arts. In October 1945 manager S. Hurok announced the formation of a
new Markova-Dolin ballet troupe devoted to classical ballet, which he had booked for a
first-season engagement of sixty appearances throughout the United States. The ensemble dancers
would be both selected and trained by Markova and Dolin. The group’s initial tour, which began
in November, had capacity audiences, and its special booking arrangement brought it together for
a joint appearance with Ballet Theatre in the larger cities of the United States.
In June 1946 Dolin ventured upon another acting experience and essayed the title role of the play, The Dancer. When the Original Ballet Russe returned to New York in October, Dolin was among the performers.
Aside from his stage performances, Anton Dolin has appeared in several British motion
pictures, which include Invitation To Waltz, Chu Chin Chow, Forbidden Territory, and Dark Red
Roses. In 1945 Dolin and Markova were brought to American screen in Republic Pictures’
musical A Song for Miss Julie. The dancer has had two books published, Divertissment (1931)
and Ballet Go Round (1938). He has lectured at Oxford and Cambridge universities and over the
radio in England, Australia, and the United States. Dolin was knighted in 1981 and died in 1983,