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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

How MacMillan created ballets of unrivalled psychological depth

How MacMillan created ballets of unrivalled psychological depth

8 November 2016

The choreographer was obsessed with emotion and behaviour, which manifested itself most memorably in his historical works, Anastasia and Mayerling.

Watch: Dancing 'ugly’ – Former dancer Viviana Durante on how to perform the role of <em>Anastasia</em>

Watch: Dancing 'ugly’ – Former dancer Viviana Durante on how to perform the role of Anastasia

3 November 2016

The Italian former Principal shares the secrets of dancing the lead role in Kenneth MacMillan's dramatic ballet.

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

Ballet Essentials: Kenneth MacMillan’s Anastasia

21 October 2016

Our quick introduction to this tale of memory, identity and loss in the Russian Revolution, from the master of dramatic ballet.

Photos