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Remembering former Royal Ballet Principal Errol Pickford (1966–2018)

The Royal Ballet is deeply saddened at the news of the death of former dancer Errol Pickford, at the age of 51.

By Jane Lawes

15 June 2018 at 4.50pm | 20 Comments

The Royal Ballet is deeply saddened at the news of the death of former Royal Ballet Principal dancer Errol Pickford, at the age of 51.

Errol was born in Perth, Australia, in 1966, and trained initially as a gymnast. After moving to the UK, he trained in ballet at the Hammond School and at The Royal Ballet School, and was the recipient of the Paul Clarke Memorial Scholarship and the Royal Academy of Dance Phyllis Bedells and Adeline Genée awards.

He joined The Royal Ballet in 1984, was promoted to Soloist in 1986, First Soloist in 1989 and Principal in 1991. Celebrated for his charismatic stage presence and athleticism, he performed across the broad range of the Company’s repertory and created roles in ballets by Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and David Bintley, among others. He danced alongside Rudolf Nureyev at the Margot Fonteyn Gala in a version of the Mandolin Dance from Romeo and Juliet created especially for him by Kenneth MacMillan. He also won the inaugural Erik Bruhn Competition in Canada and created history as the first Western dancer to partner Bolshoi ballerina Nina Ananiashvili on the Covent Garden stage for the Armenia Gala, in a performance that was broadcast live on national television.

Errol left The Royal Ballet in 1997 and became a Principal dancer with Western Australian Ballet. On retirement he trained as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Dance. He was Ballet Master and School Director for K Ballet in Japan for four years and was a guest teacher with Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Rambert, Adventures in Motion Pictures and English National Ballet. He taught at various vocational schools including London Studio Centre, Arts Educational School Tring, Bird College and, since 2008, Elmhurst Ballet School where he was Senior Ballet Teacher and Head of Graduate Placement and International Links.

Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, paid this tribute: ‘Errol and I graduated from The Royal Ballet School in the same year and performed in the School performance of The Sleeping Beauty together where he was a fantastic Bluebird. He had a great career with The Royal Ballet, excelling in numerous roles. He was also the most lovely man and will be very much missed. Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife Olivia and daughter Polly and his family and friends at this very sad time.’

By Jane Lawes

15 June 2018 at 4.50pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged Errol Pickford, news, obituary

This article has 20 comments

  1. Jackie Bares responded on 15 June 2018 at 6:21pm Reply

    Very sad news. Condolences to his family and everyone who knew him.

  2. I too am so sad to read of the death of Errol Pickford. But at least I still have a record of his great talent on DVD including the Armenian Gala. We are lucky to live in an age when such records exist to remind us of the pleasure of performances. I will remember him and his family in my prayers today.

  3. Real good bloke Errol. So sorry to hear this.

  4. Susannah Smith responded on 15 June 2018 at 9:46pm Reply

    This is so sad to hear - many memories of watching him dance at Covent Garden in the 90s. RIP.

  5. Michael Llewellyn responded on 16 June 2018 at 2:23am Reply

    Such sad news. I remember Errol so well in many major and minor roles, and I especially remember how thrillingly he danced the male solo in the Peasant Pas de six in Giselle not long after he joined the company. I have yet to see anyone dance it better than Errol.

  6. ML responded on 17 June 2018 at 6:40am Reply

    Errol was a brilliant artist with outstanding technical abilities, charismatic stage presence and wonderful artistry, even in his early years with the company after graduation from the Royal Ballet School. Gone too soon. He will be greatly missed.

  7. He was my dads brother

    • Lynus Martin responded on 29 August 2018 at 5:17am

      Hi Laura i am sorry to hear of Errol's passing , i'm a friend of his, i believe he had a brother call Gary n lives somewhere in Subiaco.

  8. Michael Llewellyn responded on 19 June 2018 at 1:45pm Reply

    I remember Errol so well, impressive right from his graduation triumph as Bluebird. He danced the male solo in the Giselle pas de six better than anyone I have ever seen. Very sad news

  9. Griffin responded on 19 June 2018 at 7:31pm Reply

    Errol was a beautiful dancer and a beautiful friend. In times of doubt, Errol was the one who convinced me to keep going in classical dance.

  10. David Radford responded on 25 June 2018 at 12:43pm Reply

    His experience and teaching will be sorely missed but above all his art in dance.

  11. Tancredi responded on 27 June 2018 at 8:04am Reply

    Sad to go so young; the only consolation is that he was still working and did not have to suffer a long decline.

  12. Oliver Prenn responded on 27 June 2018 at 9:30am Reply

    Very sad news! Errol was in fact the first "boy" to receive the Paul Clarke scholarship partly because of a passing resemblance to David Wall. Kermison Cooke spotted that he would excel on the big stage and so he did.
    Oliver Prenn
    Chairman, Paul Clarke Scholarship

  13. Lyn Justins responded on 27 June 2018 at 11:29am Reply

    I remember seeing him in the Armenian Earthquake Relief Gala, replacing the injured Irek Mukhamedov in the pas de deux from Don Quixote - what a sensation! Fabulous dancer. RIP Errol, you did Australia proud!

  14. Lyn Justins responded on 27 June 2018 at 11:44am Reply

    Very saddened to hear of the death of Errol Pickford - I remember seeing him (replacing an injured Irek Mukhamedov) at the Armenian Earthquake Relief Gala at Covent Garden, dancing the pas de deux from Don Quixote. Brought the House down! RIP Errol.

  15. Errol - John as he was christened was born in Subiaco western australia and came to england in 1973 aged 7. Errol was outstanding at athletics which people dont seem to mention, and he was county champion at 110 metre hurdles and 100 metres. Errol was the original Billy Elliot, but instead of being brought up in the north east he was brought up in stoke on trent. Errol was taught gymnastics by the coach of England at that time in burslem stoke on trent, and i am sure his name was Brian Atkinson. Errol went on to participate in ballet for fun, but it seemed to be his destiny as he was so bloody good at it. Errol was taught by Marye humphries in stoke in the late 70's. My brother had a wonderful career, and will be fondly remembered by many as a fine dancer, and a fine man. Errol, you can once again dance for my mother. God bless edge / freddie, gone by never forgotten.
    RIP little brother ❤

  16. Miles responded on 28 July 2018 at 3:29am Reply

    Taken far too early .was a wonderful dancer and a great teacher too sorely missed .

  17. Lynus Martin responded on 29 August 2018 at 5:18am Reply

    Rest in peace my friend.

  18. Stephanie Cole responded on 11 January 2019 at 11:49pm Reply

    Fantastic dancer with huge stage charisma. So sad to hear he has died

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