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Frederic Franklin Dead: British-Born Dancer Dies At 98

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The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo is rehearsing for the world premiere of Valerie Bettis' "Virginia Sampler" on March 4, 1947 at the New York City Center Theatre. Shown here during rehearsals at the New York Center Theatre are left to right: Leon Danielian, portraying the role of the frontierman, Bettis directing, Marie-Jeanne, playing the part of the young girl, and Frederic Franklin, as the young man. (AP Photo/Robert Kradin) | AP FILE

NEW YORK -- Frederic Franklin, a British-born dancer who helped popularize modern ballet in the United States and performed until his mid-90s, has died. He was 98.

Franklin succumbed to complications from pneumonia on Saturday at a Manhattan hospital, according to his lifelong partner, William Ausman.

Franklin last appeared with the American Ballet Theatre at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts three years ago – as a friar in "Romeo and Juliet."

"He gave me my first job, and I gave him his last," said the company's artistic director, Kevin McKenzie. "He was a seminal figure in the ballet world."

McKenzie said the amazingly energetic native of Liverpool, England, remembered the greatest 20th century dance moves, starting with Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo. He toured the United States with them in the 1950s.

"He had a muscle memory," McKenzie said.

Choreographers including George Balanchine relied on Franklin to keep their tradition alive, Ausman said.

"His death puts a period to an era in the dance world," McKenzie said. "He epitomized both the old ballets and the modern ones, and he helped establish the importance of classical ballet in the United States."

Franklin also danced with Britain's Sadler's Wells Theatre and as a backup for Josephine Baker in Paris.

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Frederic Franklin, British-born dancer, dies at 98

Frederic Franklin, British-born dancer, dies at 98