Kenneth MacMillan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Kenneth Macmillan)
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the British choreographer. For those of a similar name, see Kenneth McMillan (disambiguation).
Kenneth MacMillan
Kenneth MacMillan.jpg
Born (1929-12-11)11 December 1929
Dunfermline, Scotland
Died 29 October 1992(1992-10-29) (aged 62)
London, England
Occupation Choreographer, dancer
Spouse(s) Deborah Williams (1972–1992)

Sir Kenneth MacMillan (11 December 1929 – 29 October 1992) was a British ballet dancer and choreographer. He was artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London between 1970 and 1977.

Early years[edit]

MacMillan was born in Dunfermline, Scotland. He grew up in Great Yarmouth, where he studied with Phyllis Adams. Later he won a scholarship to the Sadler's Wells Ballet School, where he studied for a year before, in 1946, joining Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet, now known as Birmingham Royal Ballet. Whilst studying, he met and gained the support of Ninette de Valois, something he was to enjoy wholeheartedly for the rest of his life. In 1948 he moved to the Sadler's Wells Ballet, but returned to the Theatre Ballet four years later.


MacMillan began choreographing for the company's choreographic group and two promising early works, Somnambulism (1953) and Laiderette (1954) led de Valois to commission a work from the 25-year-old MacMillan. Danses concertantes was first produced in January 1955. He continued to dance, but gradually gave it up in favour of his true vocation. A string of successful works followed including Solitaire (1956), The Burrow (1958), Le baiser de la fée and The Invitation (1960), The Rite of Spring (1962), La Création du monde (1964) The Song of the Earth and his first full-length work, Romeo and Juliet (1965). The year he choreographed Romeo and Juliet, which has become one of his best-loved pieces, he was appointed resident choreographer at The Royal Ballet.

MacMillan was the director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin ballet from 1966 to 1969, and was made director of The Royal Ballet in 1970. He continued to choreograph and produced a string of masterpieces: Valses nobles et sentimentales (1966), Anastasia (one-act version 1967, three-act version 1971), The Seven Deadly Sins (1973), Manon and Elite Syncopations (1974), Requiem (1976), Mayerling (1978), Isadora (1981), The Prince of the Pagodas (1989) and The Judas Tree (1992). In 1977, aged only 48, he retired as director and took up the position of principal choreographer for The Royal Ballet. MacMillan was knighted in the 1983 Birthday Honours.[1]

Personal life[edit]

MacMillan died of a heart attack on 29 October 1992 while backstage at Covent Garden during a revival of his Mayerling. Jeremy Isaacs, the general director of the Royal Opera House, announced the death from the stage after the performance and asked the audience to "please rise and bow your heads and leave the theatre in silence".[2] That same evening, Birmingham Royal Ballet was dancing his Romeo and Juliet in Birmingham. He is remembered as one of the great choreographers of the twentieth century who was unafraid of confronting controversial issues in his ballets (for example The Invitation and The Judas Tree). He often dwelled on the darker side of human nature and sexuality and some of his works centred on characters who would be considered outsiders in modern society. At the same time, ballets such as Elite Syncopations showed that he was capable of creating works of great wit and charm.

He was married to the painter and sculptor Deborah Williams, with whom he had a daughter Charlotte, a photographer, and both continue to oversee continuing productions of his work.

He liked to knit and his choreographies and other papers contain knitting patterns as asides.[3] He had been taught how to knit by his maternal grandmother, Mary Anne Shreeve.[4]


Although a talented dancer, MacMillan is best known for his choreography, and particularly his work with the Royal Ballet. He also worked with the American Ballet Theatre (1956–7) and the Deutsche Oper, Berlin (1966–69). He succeeded Frederick Ashton as Director of the Royal Ballet in 1970 and resigned after seven years, frustrated at balancing the conflicting demands of creating ballets with administration. He continued as Principal Choreographer to the Royal Ballet until his death in 1992.

Full-length ballets[edit]

One-act ballets[edit]


MacMillan received the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 1993 for The Judas Tree, the Society of London Theatre Special Award in 1993 and the Tony Award for Best Choreography in 1994 for Carousel.


  1. ^ "Prime Minister's List." The Times, London, 11 June 1983, pg. 4
  2. ^ Anderson, Jack (31 October 1992). "Sir Kenneth MacMillan, 62, Choreographer, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2008. 
  3. ^ Sanjoy Roy (15 January 2010), Step-by-step guide to dance: Kenneth MacMillan, The Guardian 
  4. ^ Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth MacMillan, Faber & Faber, 2010, p. 25, ISBN 9780571274512 

External links[edit]