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Kenneth MacMillan

Choreographer

Biography

Kenneth MacMillan in action.
Kenneth MacMillan © 1951 Royal Opera House/Roger Wood

Kenneth MacMillan (1929–92) was one of the leading choreographers of his generation. His close association with The Royal Ballet began when he joined Sadler’s Wells School (now The Royal Ballet School) aged 15. He was Director of the Company 1970–77 and Principal Choreographer 1977–92. His ballets are distinguished by their penetrating psychological insight and expressive use of classical language. These qualities are demonstrated in his many works for the Company, which include Romeo and Juliet, Gloria, Manon, Mayerling and Requiem.

MacMillan was born in Dunfermline and discovered ballet while evacuated in Rutford during World War II. Aged 15 he forged a letter from his father to Ninette de Valois requesting an audition. He joined Sadler’s Wells School on a full scholarship, later entering the Company. He created his first major work, Danses concertantes, in 1955 and went on to become one of the world’s leading choreographers. Positions away from the Company included Director of Deutsche Oper Ballet Berlin (1966–9) and Associate Director of American Ballet Theatre (1984–90). He continued to create masterpieces throughout his life, including The Prince of the Pagodas (1989) and his last work The Judas Tree in 1992. He died backstage at the Royal Opera House during a revival of Mayerling.

Some of MacMillan’s most significant muses included Lynn Seymour, Christopher Gable, Monica Mason, Marcia Haydée, David Wall, Darcey Bussell and Irek Mukhamedov.

Videos

News and features

Watch: Kenneth MacMillan: Steps Back in Time from the Barbican

13 April 2018
Watch: <em>Kenneth MacMillan: Steps Back in Time</em> from the Barbican

Three rare early works from the choreographer of Romeo and Juliet and Manon, starring dancers of The Royal Ballet.

Ballet Essentials: Kenneth MacMillan's Manon

30 March 2018
Ballet Essentials: Kenneth MacMillan's <em>Manon</em>

A quick guide to MacMillan’s passionate ballet with a captivating heroine at its heart.

Royal Opera House 2018/19 Season announced

20 March 2018
Royal Opera House 2018/19 Season announced

The Royal Ballet and Royal Opera's programme for the coming Season include world premieres, major new productions and classic revivals.

Photos

Francesca Hayward as Manon and Federico Bonelli as Des Grieux in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Francesca Hayward as Manon and Alexander Campbell as Lescaut in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Claire Calvert as Lescaut's Mistress in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Romeo and Juliet by Kenneth MacMillan

Melissa Hamilton rehearsing Las Hermanas

Kenneth MacMillan after being presented with the 1978 Evening Standard Award

Kenneth MacMillan as The Great Admirer of Mademoiselle Piquant in Children's Corner

Kenneth MacMillan, Beryl Grey and John Field in Ballet Imperial, 1950

Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in Romeo and Juliet

Francesca Hayward as Manon in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Francesca Hayward as Manon and Federico Bonelli as Des Grieux in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Kenneth MacMillan

Marilyn Trounson as The Girl and Desmond Doyle as The Husband in the 1968 revival of The Invitation, The Royal Ballet

Sarah Lamb as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

Artists of The Royal Ballet in Las Hermanas.

Kenneth MacMillan during rehearsals for La Fin du jour.

Mayerling, The Royal Ballet

Francesca Hayward as Manon in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Francesca Hayward as Manon and Federico Bonelli as Des Grieux in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Francesca Hayward as Manon and Federico Bonelli as Des Grieux in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Deborah MacMillan and Jan Parry at the 2014/15 cinema launch event

Darcey Bussell as Princess Rose in The Prince of Pagodas, The Royal Ballet, 6 November 1996

David Wall, Kenneth MacMillan, Jennifer Penney and Anthony Dowell during the curtain call for Manon

Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg in Romeo and Juliet

Tunic won by Jonathan Cope and dress worn by Darcey Bussell in The Prince in The Prince of the Pagodas 1989

Las Hermanas in rehearsal

Kenneth MacMillan during rehearsals for La Fin du jour.

Carlos Acosta in Requiem

Sarah Lamb in Elite Syncopations, The Royal Ballet.

Sarah Lamb in Elite Syncopations, The Royal Ballet.

Sarah Lamb and Ryoichi Hirano in Elite Syncopations, The Royal Ballet.

Francesca Hayward as Manon and Federico Bonelli as Des Grieux in Manon, The Royal Ballet

Sarah Lamb as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

Members of the corps de ballet in Gloria, The Royal Ballet

Lynn Seymour and David Wall in rehearsals with Kenneth MacMillan for Mayerling.