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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 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

MacMillan’s Dances of Death: Pushing the boundaries

MacMillan’s Dances of Death: Pushing the boundaries

30 March 2015

The great 20th-century choreographer broke all kind of taboos, including depicting death and loss – creating some of ballet’s most moving, and uplifting, works.

Ballet Essentials: The Four Temperaments / Untouchable / Song of the Earth

Ballet Essentials: The Four Temperaments / Untouchable / Song of the Earth

26 March 2015

Our quick guide to The Royal Ballet’s mixed programme featuring Hofesh Shechter's debut with the Company and masterpieces by George Balanchine and Kenneth MacMillan.

Female Character Artists: from loving mother to bloodthirsty baddy

Female Character Artists: from loving mother to bloodthirsty baddy

5 February 2015

These expert dancer-actors are as important to the drama as the leading lady.

Photos