The Royal Ballet
|The Royal Ballet|
|Name||The Royal Ballet|
|Founders||Dame Ninette de Valois|
|Prima ballerina assoluta||Dame Margot Fonteyn|
|Principal venue||Royal Opera House
|Music Director||Barry Wordsworth|
|Resident Choreographers||Wayne McGregor|
|Sister Company||Birmingham Royal Ballet|
|Associated schools||Royal Ballet School|
|Formation||Principal Guest Artist
Principal Character Artist
The Royal Ballet is an internationally renowned classical ballet company, based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England. The largest of the four major ballet companies in Great Britain, the Royal Ballet was founded in 1931 by Dame Ninette de Valois, it became the resident ballet company of the Royal Opera House in 1946 and was granted a royal charter in 1956, becoming recognised as Britain's flagship national ballet company.
The Royal Ballet was one of the foremost ballet companies of the 20th century, and continues to be one of the world's most famous ballet companies to this day, generally noted for its artistic and creative values. The company employs approximately 100 dancers and has purpose built facilities within the Royal Opera House. The official associate school of the company is the Royal Ballet School, and it also has a sister company, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, which operates independently. The Prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet is the late Dame Margot Fonteyn.
In 1926, the Irish-born dancer Ninette de Valois founded the Academy of Choreographic Art, a dance school for girls. Her intention was to form a repertory ballet company and school, leading her to collaborate with the English theatrical producer and theatre owner Lilian Baylis. Baylis owned the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells theatres and in 1925 she engaged de Valois to stage dance performances at both venues.
Sadler's Wells reopened in 1931 and the Vic-Wells Ballet and Vic-Wells Ballet School were established in premises at the theatre. These would become the predecessors of today's Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet School. Prior to her return to Britain, Ninette de Valois had been a member of the Ballets Russes, one of the most renowned and influential ballet companies of the 20th century. The company disbanded in 1929 following the death of its founder Serge Diaghilev. When de Valois formed the Vic-Wells Ballet, she employed some of the company's former stars, including Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, who joined as Principal dancers, and Tamara Karsavina, who worked with the company as an advisor. The Founder Musical Director was the conductor and composer Constant Lambert who had considerable artistic as well as musical influence over the early years of the company.
After losing the link with the Old Vic theatre, in 1939 the company was renamed Sadler's Wells Ballet and the school became Sadler's Wells Ballet School. Both continued at Sadler's Wells Theatre until 1946, when the company was invited to become the resident ballet company of the newly re-opened Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, under the direction of David Webster. The company relocated to the opera house the same year in 1946, with their first production at the venue being The Sleeping Beauty.
Following the relocation of the company, the school moved to its own premises in 1947. A sister company was established to continue performances at Sadler's Wells, called the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet, under the direction of John Field. In 1955, the sister company temporarily lost its link with Sadler's Wells and returned to the Royal Opera House as a touring unit of the main company.
In 1956, a Royal Charter was granted for both companies and the school; they were subsequently renamed the Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School.
The Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet returned to Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1970, while continuing to tour the country. In 1987, however, the company was invited to become the resident ballet company at the Birmingham Hippodrome. It relocated to Birmingham in 1990, being renamed Birmingham Royal Ballet and it ceased to be part of the Royal Ballet in 1997 when it was made independent of the Royal Opera House, with Sir Peter Wright as Artistic Director. Birmingham Royal Ballet retains close relationships with both the Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet School, although it now has its own associate ballet school, Elmhurst School for Dance.
In 1964 the Royal Ballet established "Ballet for All" under the direction of Peter Brinson. Between 1964 and 1979 "Ballet for All" toured throughout the country, presenting around 150 performances per annum and reaching around 70,000 people each year. In 1976 the Royal Opera House established its schools' matinee programme.
Today the Royal Ballet remains the resident ballet company at the Royal Opera House, conducting its own tours internationally, and it continues to be the parent company of the Royal Ballet School, which is now based at White Lodge, Richmond Park and premises in Floral Street which are adjacent to and have direct access to the Royal Opera House.
During its formative years, the Sadler's Wells Ballet would become one of the first ballet companies outside the Soviet Union to stage full productions of ballets by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, which were central to the repertory of the Imperial Russian Ballet. To stage these ballets with her newly formed company, de Valois employed Nicholas Sergeyev, a former régisseur of the Imperial. He staged productions of Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty; Petipa and Ivanov's Swan Lake and The Nutcracker; Petipa and Cecchetti's production of Coppélia; and Petipa's Giselle. Created with the aid of choreographic notation written in St Petersburg at the turn of the 20th century, these works have been included in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet ever since. The company now uses Peter Wright's 1984 production of The Nutcracker, which uses some of Sergeyev's notation. Sergeyev's revivals of these ballets in London are regarded as the foundation point of the traditional classical ballet repertoire, and led to their being restaged throughout the world. Sergeyev is considered to have made one of the most significant contributions to the popularity of ballet worldwide. His choreographic notation and other materials relating to it have been preserved in the Sergeyev Collection, part of the theatre collection of the Harvard University Library.
Prima ballerina assoluta 
The Royal Ballet is one of the few ballet companies in the world to have staged performances by three dancers considered to be Prima ballerina assoluta, the two 20th-century dancers having studied at the Royal Ballet School. The first was Alicia Markova who, having been mentored by Ninette de Valois as a member of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, was invited to become one of the founder dancers of the Royal Ballet. She was designated the company's first Prima ballerina, and was later recognised as a Prima ballerina assoluta. Margot Fonteyn spent her entire career dancing with the company and was appointed Prima ballerina assoluta by Queen Elizabeth II. Alessandra Ferri began her career with the Royal Ballet; she was later appointed Prima ballerina assoluta of La Scala Theatre Ballet in Milan.
The Royal Ballet has six ranks of dancers in ascending order:
- Artist: the lowest rank in the company and, together with the First Artists, dancers at this level form the Corps de ballet. Ballet school graduates entering the company usually do so at this level.
- First Artist: a rank for the more senior members of the Corps de Ballet. Dancers at this level have the opportunity to perform some of the Corps de Ballet's more featured rôles, such as the Dance of the Cygnets in Swan Lake. First Artists will occasionally be cast in minor Soloist rôles if they are being considered for promotion.
- Soloist: there are normally 15–20 soloists in the company. As the title suggests, dancers at this level perform the majority of the solo and minor rôles in a ballet, such as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet or one of the Fairies in The Sleeping Beauty.
- First soloist: the rank where dancers are being considered for promotion to principal level. A dancer at this rank will dance a varied repertoire of the most featured soloist rôles, whilst understudying and having the opportunity to perform leading rôles when a Principal dancer is either injured or unavailable.
- Principal character artist: the rank given to members of the company who perform important character rôles in a ballet. These rôles are normally very theatrical and often include character dance and ballet mime. Examples include Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty or Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker. Most Principal Character Artists in the Royal Ballet are older dancers who have been high-ranking members of the company.
- Principal: the highest rank in the Royal Ballet and dancers at this level generally perform the leading and most featured rôles in a ballet. To be a principal is to be recognised as one of the leading dancers in the company and a number of the world's most celebrated dancers have been principals with the company.
The Royal Ballet also has special ranks for visiting dancers, they are "guest artist and "principal guest artist".
The Company 
- Director – Kevin O'Hare, a graduate of the Royal Ballet School and former dancer with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet
- Associate Director – Jeanetta Laurence, a graduate of the Royal Ballet School and former dancer with the Royal Ballet Touring Company, the New Group and Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet
- Music Director – Barry Wordsworth, a British conductor and junior alumnus of the Trinity College of Music
- Company & Tour Manager – Andrew Hurst, a Royal Ballet School graduate who was previously General Manager for Phoenix Dance Company.
- Resident Choreographer – Wayne McGregor CBE, an award-winning choreographer, most noted in the field of contemporary dance and as Artistic Director of Random Dance company.
- Artistic Associate – Christopher Wheeldon
- Artist in Residence - Liam Scarlett
Principal Dancers 
Principal Character Artists 
First Soloists 
First Artists 
Sir Frederick Ashton 
Sir Frederick Ashton was the founder choreographer of the Royal Ballet. Previously a dancer with the Ballet Rambert, Ashton started his career as a choreogapher under the direction of Dame Marie Rambert, before joining the Royal Ballet as its associate choreographer when the company was founded in 1931. He created the majority of the company's early works and staged their first performance at the Royal Opera House, a production of The Sleeping Beauty in 1946. Ashton was appointed Artistic director of the Royal Ballet from 1963 to 1970, when he retired from the post. He continued to work as a choreographer internationally, with his final work being the Nursery Suite, for a gala performance by the Royal Ballet School at the Royal Opera House in 1986. His numerous ballets have since been staged by leading dance companies worldwide and feature strongly in the programming of the Royal Ballet today.
Choreographic works 
Ashton created over 100 original ballet works and numerous other productions, some of the most notable including:
Sir Kenneth MacMillan 
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. Although a talented dancer, MacMillan is best known for his choreography, and particularly for 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.
Choreographic Works 
His full-length works include:
MacMillan's one-act ballets include:
Wayne McGregor 
Prior to his appointment as Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet, Wayne McGregor has already established himself as an award-winning dancer, choreographer and director. His first choreography for the Royal Ballet, was Fleur de Peux, a solo work created in 2000 on Viviana Durante. This led to further commissions by the Royal Ballet, including Symbiont(s) in 2001, Qualia in 2003 and Engram in 2005. He also created the ballet brainstate in 2001, as a collaboration between the Royal Ballet and his own company, Random Dance. McGregor was appointed Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet in 2006, the first person to hold the post in sixteen years, and the first to be selected from the world of contemporary dance.
McGregor's works for the Royal Ballet include:
First performing together with the Royal Ballet in Giselle on 21 February 1962, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev would form what has been called the greatest ballet partnership of all time. The partnership would lead to both dancers being noted amongst the most famous ballet dancers of all time and came at the peak of what is now widely regarded as the most successful period in the Royal Ballet's history.
On 12 March 1963, the couple premiered Sir Frederick Ashton's Marguerite and Armand, the first ballet created for them and one which become their signature piece. Performed to a piece of piano music by Franz Liszt, the ballet starts with Marguerite on her deathbed, and the story is told in flashback until the moment Armand arrives to hold her for the last time before she dies. Ashton had planned the piece specifically for Fonteyn, and it was critically acclaimed as Fonteyn's dramatic peak, with fifty photographers attending the dress rehearsal and twenty-one curtain calls at the premiere performance. The final performance of the ballet starring Fonteyn and Nureyev was staged at a gala at the London Coliseum in 1977 and it was not performed again until 2003. Against the wishes of Frederick Ashton that it not be performed by any other dancers than Fonteyn and Nureyev, it was revived as part of a Royal Ballet triple-bill, starring Nureyev's protegee Sylvie Guillem and the Royal Ballet star Jonathan Cope.
The Fonteyn-Nureyev partnership lasted for many years until Fonteyn's retirement from the Royal Ballet in 1979, aged 60. In 1970 after Frederick Ashton retired as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet, there were many calls for Nureyev to be announced as his successor. However, Kenneth MacMillan was given the position, and Nureyev left the Royal Ballet as a Principal soon after to be a guest dancer internationally, later becoming Artistic Director of the Paris Opera Ballet in 1983. Fonteyn and Nureyev had a lifelong relationship both on and offstage and were close friends until Fonteyn's death in 1991. Nureyev is quoted as saying of the partnership that they danced with "one body, one soul".
Notable former dancers 
guest dancers 
artistic directors 
Ross Stretton 
Born in Canberra, Australia in 1952, Ross Stretton trained at the Australian Ballet School, later becoming a Principal dancer with the Australian Ballet company. He then moved to America, where he danced with the Joffrey Ballet and as a Principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre before retiring as a dancer in 1990. He was appointed Regisseur of American Ballet Theatre, becoming Assistant Director of the company in 1993. After returning to Australia, he was Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet from 1997 to 2001.
Following Sir Anthony Dowell's retirement as Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet in 2001, the board of the Royal Opera House announced Stretton as his successor, with a three-year contract, however he resigned the post after 13 months, in September 2002. Stretton's appointment and subsequent departure from the Royal Ballet generated an unprecedented level of media attention for the Royal Ballet in recent years, due to controversy caused by his management of the company. Following his resignation, Stretton returned to Australia where he worked as a teacher and consultant until his death from cancer in 2005.
A number of controversial issues and allegations as well as resistance to organisational change lead to Stretton's departure from the Royal Ballet:
- Principal dancer Sarah Wildor quit the company after a dispute over casting. Stretton had both historically and during his tenure with The Royal Ballet favoured athletic, speedy dancers as opposed to those with a more lyrical style, such as Wildor.
- Stretton sometimes chose corps de ballet members for principal roles, leading to numerous arguments with Principal dancers
- Principal Character Artist David Drew declared Stretton's appointment as "a disaster for the company" in the Mail on Sunday
- Lady MacMillan threatened to withdraw performing rights to works by her late husband Sir Kenneth MacMillan
- Stretton's programming was badly received by critics
- Dancers let it be known they were considering strike action; however, talks between Equity, the dancers' union, and the Royal Opera House's executive director Tony Hall, averted industrial action
- Rumours and allegations were made that Stretton engaged in sexual liaisons and affairs with various dancers. Royal Opera House spokesman Christopher Millard said "there have been no informal or formal complaints to management of Royal Opera House about this" .
Kevin O'Hare 
Former Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal dancer and Royal Ballet Administrative Director Kevin O'Hare succeeded Monica Mason as Director of The Royal Ballet in August 2012. Administrative Director of the company since 2009, O'Hare retired from dancing in 2000 and subsequently worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and as Company Manager of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
"This is a great honour for me. Under Monica Mason’s inspired leadership The Royal Ballet has had a great ten years. I am equally ambitious for the Company and dance in general. I plan to bring together the most talented artists of the 21st century to collaborate on the same stage – world class dancers, choreographers, designers, and musicians. I will aim to use all the traditional and new platforms now available to engage our audiences in our classic repertoire, and The Royal Ballet’s unique heritage. I want to continue to invigorate audiences with new work and emerging talents and I am thrilled that Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon – two of the world’s leading choreographers – have agreed to join me and Jeanetta Laurence, Associate Director to become part of the senior artistic team. Both Wayne and Christopher share my exciting ambitions for the Company."
Royal Opera House, Manchester 
The Royal Opera House and Manchester City Council are currently in the planning stages of a new development known as Royal Opera House, Manchester. The proposal is for the Palace Theatre in Manchester to receive an £80m refurbishment, creating a first-class theatre capable of staging productions by both the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera. The Royal Opera House would take residence of the theatre for an annual 18 week season, staging 16 performances by the Royal Opera, 28 performances by the Royal Ballet and other small-scale productions. The proposals would establish the Palace Theatre as a designated base for the Royal Opera House companies in the North of England, as a producing house for new ballet and opera, and as a training centre for all aspects of theatre production. The proposals could potentially lead to the creation of 700 jobs for local people.
The proposals have been approved by Andy Burnham MP the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, and accepted by a number of public bodies. However the plans are currently being revised to address the concerns put forward by those who are opposed to the plans. Issues that have been raised include:
- How will the refurbishment of the Palace Theatre be funded?
- Will the proposals impact negatively on The Lowry, a theatre and arts complex in nearby Salford?
- Will the Manchester season present the same standard of performance as the Royal Opera House in London?
Laurence Olivier Awards 
The Royal Ballet company is a multiple Laurence Olivier Award winning company. The following is a complete list of awards won by the company and its staff since the awards were established in 1978. These include awards presented to the company for a production of a particular ballet, to individual dancers for their performance in a specific rôle, to designers for their work on a specific production and to other members of the Royal Ballet staff for achievements in dance.
- 1978 – Production of the Year in Ballet, for a production of Sir Frederick Ashton's A Month in the Country
- 1980 – Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Ballet, for a production of Gloria
- 1981 – Outstanding First Achievement of the Year in Ballet, awarded to Bryony Brind for her performance in The Royal Ballet's Dances of Albion
- 1983 – Outstanding Individual Performance of the Year in a New Dance Production, awarded to Alessandra Ferri for her performance in the Royal Ballet's Valley of Shadows
- 1983 – Outstanding New Dance Production of the Year, for a production of Sir Frederick Ashton's Requiem
- 1992 – Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Dance, for a production of William Forsythe's In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated
- 1992 – Society of London Theatre Special Award, awarded to the Royal Ballet's founder and director Dame Ninette de Valois in recognition of her achievements in dance
- 1993 – Best New Dance Production, for a production of Sir Kenneth MacMillan's The Judas Tree
- 1995 – Best New Dance Production, for their production of Fearful Symmetries
- 1995 – Outstanding Achievement in Dance, awarded to lighting designer Peter Mumford for the Royal Ballet's Fearful Symmetries
- 2007 – Best New Dance Production, for their new production Chroma, choreographed by Wayne McGreggor
- 2008 – Best New Dance Production, for the company premiere of George Balanchine's ballet Jewels
- 2008 – Outstanding Achievement in Dance, for the company premiere of George Balanchine's ballet Jewels
- 2010 – Best New Dance Production, awarded to the Brandstrup-Rojo Project, Goldberg (a collaboration between choreographer Kim Brandstrup & dancer Tamara Rojo)
See also 
- Royal Ballet School, the associate school of the company
- Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Royal Ballet's sister company
- Elmhurst School for Dance, the associate school of Birmingham Royal Ballet
- English National Ballet, the leading rival of the Royal Ballet companies
- English National Ballet School, the associate school of English National Ballet
- Scottish Ballet, the national ballet company of Scotland
- Rambert Dance Company, a ballet company contemporaneous to the Royal Ballet during the latter's formative years (now a modern dance company)
- Lynn Garafola (2005). Legacies of twentieth-century dance. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6674-8. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
- Vaughan D. Frederick Ashton and his Ballets. A & C Black Ltd, London, 1977.
- "The Royal Ballet School – a brief history". 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
- "Royal Ballet –British ballet company". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
- "The Royal Ballet: Artists". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- "The Royal Ballet: Staff". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- on ballet.co.uk Retrieved 12 December 2009
- On bllletcompany.co.uk Retrieved 12 December 2009
- "Wayne McGregor To Become Resident Choreographer At The Royal Opera House". Huliq News. 3 December 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
- ""Cupcakes & Conversation" with Mara Galeazzi". Ballet News. 27 August 2009.
- "The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae gives a ballet masterclass". Ballet News. 13 November 2012.
- ""Cupcakes & Conversation" with Tamara Rojo". Ballet News. 31 July 2009.
- "Darcey Bussell interviewed". Ballet News. 4 March 2010.
- Reynolds, Nigel (26 September 2001). "Royal Ballet shocked as Wildor quits". Daily Telegraph, 26 September 2001 (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- Reynolds, Mark (15 November 2010). "Swanning off, the ballet boss accused of affairs". Daily Telegraph, 26 September 2002 (London).
- Brown, Ismene (27 September 2002). "Double whammy that toppled ballet boss". Daily Telegraph, 27 September 2002 (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- "Ross Stretton". Daily Telegraph, 17 June 2005 (London). Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- Royal Opera House. "Kevin O’Hare appointed new Director of The Royal Ballet". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/oct/28/royal-opera-lowry-manchester Article from the Guardian about Royal Opera House Manchester
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/7702690.stm Article from BBC NEws about Royal Opera House Manchester