News: Ross Stretton 1952 - 2005

Friday 17 June 2005

The former Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet – and for a short period of the Royal Ballet in London – has died at the age of 53.

The Royal Ballet issued the following statement:

‘We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear of Ross Stretton’s death after a long battle with Melanoma. Monica Mason, Director of The Royal Ballet, says, ‘We are all very sad to hear of the death of Ross Stretton and our thoughts are with his wife and children at this distressing time. Although he was with The Royal Ballet for a relatively short time, I recognised his passion for the art form and deeply admired the energy and commitment he brought to his work.

Tony Hall, Royal Opera House Chief Executive, says, ‘I am hugely saddened at the news that Ross has died. We arrived here at the Royal Opera House at roughly the same time, and worked together very closely over the best part of 18 months. I was very sorry that things did not work out for Ross here as he brought lots of ideas and a huge amount of energy to The Royal Ballet. I heard a few weeks ago that he was seriously ill, and my thoughts now are with Valmai and his children who I came to know when they lived here.

Ross Stretton was born in and trained at The Australian Ballet School. On graduation he joined the corps de ballet of The Australian Ballet and two years later he was promoted to Soloist. In 1976 he became a Principal Artist, dancing the leading roles in all the classical ballets in the repertory and creating roles in many contemporary works.

While Sir Robert Helpmann was Artistic Director of the company, he awarded Ross Stretton a scholarship to study in for three months. Inspired by the challenges and excitement of this experience, Ross Stretton moved to the in 1979 and joined The Joffrey Ballet in . Mikhail Baryshnikov invited him to dance as a guest artist in American Ballet Theatre’s 1980 – 81 season, and subsequently asked him to join American Ballet Theatre permanently.

As a Principal Artist with American Ballet Theatre, Ross Stretton danced leading roles in all the classics. He also performed in a wide range of contemporary works and in new works by international choreographers. During his time with American Ballet Theatre, he toured internationally with ‘Baryshnikov and Company’ for many years, and appeared extensively as a guest artist with other companies in the and abroad.

Ross Stretton retired from dancing in May 1990 when he was invited to take the position of Assistant to the Directors of American Ballet Theatre. He was made Régisseur of the company in September 1991 and Assistant Director from 1993. Ross Stretton also founded New York Dancers, presenting concert performances by stars of American Ballet Theatre. He was appointed Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet from January 1997 and also held the position of Artistic Director of The Dancers Company.

Ross Stretton was Director of The Royal Ballet from September 2001 to September 2002.’

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David McAllister, Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet “I was lucky enough to dance as a Principal Artist under Ross and had the most exciting and stimulating end to my career. Following him as Artistic Director I inherited a company that was talented, versatile and passionate about the art form. His time at The Australian Ballet was a fertile and creative one as he brought the company and its dancers bounding into the 21st century. Thank you Ross.” Australian Ballet website

Read an obituary in the Telegraph, 17 June

Photo: Bill Cooper

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