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Kenneth MacMillan

Choreographer

Biography

Kenneth MacMillan (1929–92) was one of the leading choreographers of his generation. His close association with The Royal Ballet began when he joined The 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 (1969–9) 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: Members of the cast and creative team on Manon

Watch: Members of the cast and creative team on Manon

16 October 2014

Backstage films from the live relay of Manon, including Darcey Bussell and Deborah MacMillan on the choreographer's creative process and Royal Ballet dancers introducing the story and characters of the ballet.

Watch: Behind the scenes with The Royal Ballet in Taiwan

Watch: Behind the scenes with The Royal Ballet in Taiwan

8 October 2014

First Soloist Melissa Hamilton introduces newly-released backstage films from the Company’s tour earlier this year.

Manon dance highlights: Four extended pas de deux

Manon dance highlights: Four extended pas de deux

19 September 2014

Kenneth MacMillan constructed his dramatic ballet around four pivotal moments.

Making Manon: How MacMillan fused two ballerinas' styles in one role

Making Manon: How MacMillan fused two ballerinas' styles in one role

16 September 2014

One of ballet's most iconic roles contains elements of both Antoinette Sibley and Jennifer Penney.

5 things you need to know about Kenneth MacMillan's ballet Manon

5 things you need to know about Kenneth MacMillan's ballet Manon

12 September 2014

Our quick guide to this 20th-century tragic love story.

Who was Abbé Prévost?

Who was Abbé Prévost?

16 June 2014

The man who created Manon Lescaut was, like his heroine, full of contradictions.

Photos

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

Kenneth MacMillan

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

David Wall, Kenneth MacMillan, Jennifer Penney and Anthony Dowell during the curtain call for Manon © 1981 Royal Opera House Collections / Donald Southern

Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson in Mayerling © ROH/Johan Persson, 2005

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

Dress worn by Darcey Bussell as Princess Rose in The Prince of the Pagodas 1989 © ROH 1989

Tunic won by Jonathan Cope as The Prince in The Prince of the Pagodas 1989 © ROH 1989

Kenneth MacMillan during rehearsals for La Fin du jour. © 1979 Roy Round

Lynn Seymour and David Wall in rehearsals with Kenneth MacMillan for Mayerling. © Roy Round 1978

Melissa Hamilton rehearsing Las Hermanas © ROH 2012

Las Hermanas in rehearsal © ROH 2012

Artists of The Royal Ballet in Las Hermanas. © Bill Cooper / ROH 2012

Kenneth MacMillan © Roy Round

Kenneth MacMillan during rehearsals for La Fin du jour. © 1979 Roy Round

Natalia Makarova, Kenneth MacMillan and Mikhail Baryshnikov in rehearsals, 1981 © 1981 Roy Round

Kenneth MacMillan after being presented with the 1978 Evening Standard Award © Donald Southern

Kenneth MacMillan © 1951 Royal Opera House/Roger Wood

Kenneth MacMillan as The Great Admirer of Mademoiselle Piquant in Children's Corner © 1948 Royal Opera House/Roger Wood

Members of the corps de ballet in Gloria, The Royal Ballet © ROH/Bill Cooper, 2011

Carlos Acosta in Requiem © Tristram Kenton & Johan Persson /ROH 2011

Kenneth MacMillan, Beryl Grey and John Field in Ballet Imperial, 1950 © 1950 Royal Opera House/Roger Wood