Dowell was born in London, United Kingdom. He studied at the Hampshire School and The Royal Ballet Schools, before joining The Royal Ballet in 1961. He was ultimately promoted to the most senior rank of Principal Dancer, and is recognised as one of the companies star dancers of the 1970s and early 80s. Dowell is most noted for the role of Oberon in The Dream by Sir Frederick Ashton and for his filmed performance as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake with Natalia Makarova in 1980. He also formed a famous partnership with dancer Dame Antoinette Sibley. After retiring as a principal dancer, in 1984 he was appointed Assistant to the Director of the Royal Ballet, being promoted to Associate Director in 1985. He was appointed as artistic director of The Royal Ballet in 1986, and held the position until 2001 when he officially retired. Dowell is renowned for playing character roles such as Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty. He continues to be active in the dance industry as a guest teacher and lecturer. Dowell is a Governor of the Royal Ballet School and is also a member of organisations such as the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.
Proving to have a strong technique, lyrical quality, and extraordinary dramatic sensibilities, by 1966 Dowell was promoted to the rank of principal dancer and created other rôles in Ashton's works including Beliaev in his A Month in the Country, Troyte in Enigma Variations, and Lo Straniero in Varii Capricci. For Sir Kenneth MacMillan, he created Des Grieux in Manon, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Kchessinska’s partner in Anastasia, the Boy in Triad and Autumn in The Four Seasons. He also created the Boy with Matted Hair in Antony Tudor’s Shadowplay, Prospero in Nureyev’s The Tempest and the leading rôle in Hans van Manen’s Four Schumann Pieces, for which he was the inspiration. Rôles in which he was particularly praised include the leads in Ashton’s La fille mal gardée, Cinderella, Daphnis and Chloë and Symphonic Variations; MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, Ondine and Romeo and Juliet; La Bayadère, Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and In the Night and Balanchine’s Agon. That "he is, without a doubt, the finest Drosselmeyer who has ever danced the rôle....is without question. Sir Anthony is a consummate man of the theater...one of the last we shall know....We should rejoice in the recorded legacy of his work onstage." -Michael Maglaras
In the late 1970s he danced with both The Royal Ballet in London and American Ballet Theatre in New York, where his extensive repertory included the rôle of Solor in the first performances of Natalia Makarova’s production of La Bayadère. One of his last full dancing rôles was as Palemon in a revival of Sir Frederick Ashton's Ondine in the late 1980s. While Artistic Director of The Royal Ballet, Dowell presented a new version of The Sleeping Beauty. The production was filmed and features Dowell in the character rôle of Carabosse.
A new career
In September 1986 he was appointed Director of The Royal Ballet, a post he held until August 2001, (having become Assistant to the Director in September 1984 and Associate Director in 1985). He was succeeded by Ross Stretton.
- Valentino, 1977 (Vaslav Nijinsky)
- Great Pas de Deux (NVC Arts/Warner Music Group, 1997): dancing The Nutcracker with Lesley Collier
- Swan Lake Prince Siegfried with Natalia Makarova The Royal Ballet Covent Garden in 1980
- Anthony Dowell filmography at BFI, accessed 21 January 2014.
- Willis, Margaret (1 August 1999), DOWELL TO LEAVE ROYAL BALLET IN 2001, Dance Magazine
- Simpson, Jane (January 1999), Legend: Anthony Dowell, Ballet.co.uk
- Anthony James DOWELL, C.B.E., Artistic Director,. Royal Ballet. For services to Ballet Supplement to The London Gazette, 17 June 1995
- Portraits of Sir Anthony Dowell (National Portrait Gallery), painted by Alan Bergman, Philip Harris, and Bernard Lee Schwartz