64 Parishes

Royes Fernandez

Royes Fernández, from New Orleans, was considered to be America's first premier ballet dancer.

Royes Fernandez

Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Ruth Ann Koesun and Royes Fernandez. Unidentified

Royes Fernández achieved great success as a ballet dancer. Born on July 15, 1929, in New Orleans, he received his introduction to dance from his father, with whom he studied ballroom dancing. Fernández continued his training in ballet with Lelia Haller in New Orleans. In 1944, he made his first appearance with the New Orleans Opera Ballet. During the summer of 1945, Fernández studied at the School of American Ballet in New York. After graduating from high school in 1946, he moved to New York at age sixteen, studied with Vincenzo Celli, and made his debut in de Basil’s Original Ballet Russe. In 1947, Fernández joined the Markova-Dolin Ballet as a soloist. He was widely recognized for his technical excellence in both classical and contemporary works.

Fernández was considered to be America’s first premier danseur; he created the role of Siegfried in the first full-length US production of Swan Lake by American Ballet Theatre in 1967. He was particularly renowned for his performances of the principal male roles in Giselle, Swan Lake, and La Sylphide.

In 1966, Fernández toured Russia with American Ballet Theatre. In addition to his long career with American Ballet Theatre, he was associated with the Ballet Alicia Alonso, Australia’s Borovansky Ballet, the London Festival Ballet, New York City Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet. He was Margot Fonteyn’s partner in his 1963 world tour. Fernández was known for his work with Alicia Alonso, Eleanor D’Antuono, Lupe Serrano, Maria Tallchief, and Toni Lander, among others. After retirement from American Ballet Theatre in 1973, he taught ballet at Purchase, State University of New York. Fernández died of cancer in New York City on March 3, 1980.