Richard Farley
Richard Farley

Remembering Richard Farley (1935-2023)

Farley is remembered for his charismatic dancing and evocative photography of The Royal Ballet

By Rachel Hollings (Artistic Administrator, The Royal Ballet)
Friday 10 November 2023, 5pm

The Royal Ballet is saddened to hear of the death of former Principal dancer Richard Farley, who died on 9 November 2023 aged 88.

Farley was born in Bournemouth. He trained at The Royal Ballet School from 1947 to 1954 before being called up for National Service. He joined The Royal Ballet upon demobilisation in 1956. He subsequently joined the Touring Company where he performed in various theatres around the nation.

Among his many roles he is best remembered for dancing the role of A Country Boy in Andrée Howard’s ballet La Fête étranger and leading roles in The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Fille mal gardée, Giselle and Hamlet and for creating the role of Adam in Kenneth MacMillan’s La Création du monde. He also worked with MacMillan to set the middle movement pas de deux of Concerto with Doreen Wells when the ballet came into the Company repertory.

Doreen Wells and Richard Farley in La Création du monde (1964) ©Houston Rogers
Doreen Wells and Richard Farley in La Création du monde (1964) ©Houston Rogers

In broadcast work, Farley featured as the lead in ballet creations for television by Peter Wright. In 1962, he took a year off dancing and joined the set as a dancer for the 1963 film Summer Holiday starring Cliff Richards. This sabbatical spurred a career transition to photography. His photographic style was candid and intimate; due to his proximity with the Company he was able to shoot Royal Ballet luminaries including Fonteyn and Nureyev while on tour and in rehearsal.

Dame Monica Mason, former Director of The Royal Ballet, recalls, ‘I knew Richard from my early days in the Company. He was like a brother to me. During my first tour with the Company to America, he showed a real generosity of spirit to us new dancers. He had been on tour to America before and made sure we were taken care of. He remained a close lifelong friend throughout my career and was an absolutely charming dancer.’  

Shirley Grahame and Richard Farley in Les Sylphides ©Zoe Dominic
Shirley Grahame and Richard Farley in Les Sylphides ©Zoe Dominic

He is also fondly remembered by Christopher Newton, former Royal Ballet dancer and répétiteur. Newton, who was in the School and Company with Farley, remembers, ‘He got on with everybody, he was charming and easy going. When he moved on to photograph the Company, he just blended right in.’

Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, comments, ‘Richard’s charm and charisma made him a much-loved figure and compelling presence within the ballet world both on and off the stage. He is remembered with great affection by us all and we extend our deepest condolences to Richard’s family at this sad time – to his wife and our wonderful Royal Ballet senior stage manager Johanna Adams Farley, their son Tom and granddaughter Gracie.’

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