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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

Reviving Kenneth MacMillan’s <em>Mayerling</em>: a Royal Ballet milestone

Reviving Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling: a Royal Ballet milestone

12 May 2017

MacMillan’s potent dramatic ballet places great demands on its cast and requires careful planning – but the results are electrifying.

<em>Mayerling</em> dance highlight: the Bedroom <em>pas de deux</em>

Mayerling dance highlight: the Bedroom pas de deux

19 April 2017

This intense duet reflects the shared obsession that will lead Prince Rudolf and Mary Vetsera to their joint suicide.

Ballet Essentials: Kenneth MacMillan’s <em>Mayerling</em>

Ballet Essentials: Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling

13 April 2017

Our quick introduction to this shattering work from the master of dark narrative ballet.

Photos

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

Kenneth MacMillan

Sarah Lamb as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

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

Artists of The Royal Ballet in Las Hermanas.

Kenneth MacMillan during rehearsals for La Fin du jour.

Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson in Mayerling

Mayerling, 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

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 as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet

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

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

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

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

Kenneth MacMillan during rehearsals for La Fin du jour.

Kenneth MacMillan

Natalia Makarova, Kenneth MacMillan and Mikhail Baryshnikov in rehearsals, 1981

Kenneth MacMillan

Kenneth MacMillan