Kenneth MacMillan

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MacMillan towards the end of his life

Sir Kenneth MacMillan (11 December 1929[citation needed] – 29 October 1992) was a British ballet dancer and choreographer who was artistic director of the Royal Ballet in London between 1970 and 1977, and its principal choreographer from 1977 until his death. Earlier he had served as director of ballet for the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. He was also associate director of the American Ballet Theatre from 1984 to 1989, and artistic associate of the Houston Ballet from 1989 to 1992.

From a family with no background of dance or music, MacMillan was determined from an early age to become a dancer. The director of Sadler's Wells Ballet, Ninette de Valois, accepted him as a student and then a member of her company. In the late 1940s, MacMillan built a successful career as a dancer, but, plagued by stage fright, he abandoned it while still in his twenties. After this he worked entirely as a choreographer; he created ten full-length ballets and more than fifty one-act pieces. In addition to his work for ballet companies he was active in television, musicals, non-musical drama, and opera.

Although he is mainly associated with the Royal Ballet, MacMillan frequently considered himself an outsider there and felt driven to work with other companies throughout his career as choreographer. His creations for the Stuttgart Ballet and the Deutsche Opera ballet include some of his most frequently revived works.

Life and career[edit]

Early years[edit]

MacMillan was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the youngest of four surviving children[n 1] of William MacMillan (1891–1946), who was a labourer and, from time to time, cook, and his wife, Edith (née Shreeve; 1888–1942).[1]

His father had served in the army in the First World War, and suffered permanent physical and mental damage. In search of work he moved with his family to his wife's home town, Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. After attending a local primary school, Kenneth studied from 1940 at Great Yarmouth Grammar School, to which he won a scholarship. As Great Yarmouth was a target for German air raids in the Second World War, the school was evacuated to Retford in Nottinghamshire.[1]

In Retford, MacMillan was introduced to ballet by a local dance teacher, Jean Thomas. He had already had lessons in Scottish dancing in Dunfermline and tap dancing in Great Yarmouth, and he took to ballet immediately.[2] In 1942, his mother died, which caused him acute and lasting distress. His father was a distant figure, and the boy's only close family relationship was with an elder sister. His obituarist in The Times suggests that the feeling of being an outsider, displayed in many of MacMillan's ballets, had its roots in his childhood.[3]

When the grammar school returned to Great Yarmouth in 1944, MacMillan found a new ballet teacher, Phyllis Adams. With her help, MacMillan, aged fifteen, secured admission to the Sadler's Wells Ballet School (later the Royal Ballet School). He saw his first performances of ballets, given by Ninette de Valois' Sadler's Wells company, at the New Theatre in London.[1]


Ninette de Valois, who recruited and encouraged the young MacMillan

When David Webster was appointed chief executive of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden at the end of the war,[n 2] his assignment was to establish permanent opera and ballet companies for the house. He set about building the opera company from scratch but persuaded de Valois to make Covent Garden the main base for her ballet company.[5] In 1946, while still a student, MacMillan appeared in the production of The Sleeping Beauty with which Webster and de Valois reopened the opera house. At first he was a non-dancing extra, and later he was promoted to a small dancing role.[6] With the main company now resident at Covent Garden, de Valois established a smaller ensemble to perform at Sadler's Wells and act as a training ground for young dancers and choreographers. In April 1946 MacMillan was a founder member, and quickly made progress. He was cast by Frederick Ashton, de Valois' principal choreographer, in a leading role in a new ballet, Valses nobles et sentimentales, in October 1946.[7] The success of the piece encouraged Ashton to revive his 1933 Les Rendezvous.

Although initially only in the corps de ballet for this work, MacMillan was unexpectedly promoted to the male lead because of injuries to all the eligible company principals. His biographer Jann Parry comments that he was able to take over without notice because he had a rare ability to remember and reproduce the steps of every dancer in any piece in which he appeared.[8] He was promoted to the senior Covent Garden company at the start of the 1948–49 season,[9] touring in Europe and dancing Florestan in the third act pas de trois of The Sleeping Beauty in the company's opening gala in New York in October 1949.[1] The first new role he created was The Great Admirer of Mademoiselle Piquant in John Cranko's ballet Children's Corner (1948). He appeared in the British film Tread Softly, in 1950. Then followed his Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty in Margaret Dale's The Great Detective (1953); and Moondog, in Cranko's The Lady and the Fool, (1954)[10]

"I stopped dancing when I was about 23 mainly because I had just terrible stage fright and I hated performing. I turned to choreography as a release from dancing and I was lucky enough that the first thing I did everyone liked."

MacMillan interviewed by the BBC in 1990[10]

Despite his rise within the company, MacMillan became unhappy as a performer. He suffered from severe stage fright, and his leading roles became an ordeal for him.[n 3] De Valois gave him three months' leave of absence, during which he spent some time dancing with his friend John Cranko's small group in the little Kenton Theatre, away from the spotlight, in Henley-on-Thames.[12] Cranko, himself a former dancer who had moved to choreography, concluded that MacMillan might well follow the same course.[13] When MacMillan returned to work, his confidence as a dancer somewhat restored, he took part in de Valois' new Choreographers Group, set up in response to Marie Rambert's "Ballet Workshops".[n 4] For this group, MacMillan choreographed his first ballet, Somnambulism, which was first given on 1 February 1953. It was well received, and the next year he followed with another small-scale work, Laiderette. This introduced the "outsider" character that became a hallmark of his ballets,[15] in this case a female clown who attends a ball at which her host falls in love with her until she loses the mask that has made her attractive.[16] MacMillan's eclectic choice of music was evidenced in these two early works; the first was danced to jazz composed by Stan Kenton, and the second was to the harpsichord music of Frank Martin.[17]

On the strength of the workshop successes, de Valois commissioned the 25-year-old MacMillan to create a ballet for performance at Sadler's Wells. Danses concertantes, to music by Stravinsky, was first produced in January 1955, with designs by Nicholas Georgiadis, with whom MacMillan collaborated extensively over the next years.[17] Parry counts among MacMillan's early influences the modernism of choreographers such as Roland Petit, Jerome Robbins and Antony Tudor, and the craftsmanship of Ashton, from whom MacMillan said he learned how a ballet was made.[1] The Times commented that with this piece it was clear that a powerful choreographic talent had arrived.[3] The critic Clement Crisp has described the piece as "a bravura display using a witty, allusive classical vocabulary, remade by a creator who knew the cinema and spoke the movement language of his generation".[18] With the success of Danses concertantes MacMillan concluded that his future lay in choreography rather than dancing. After a fierce argument with de Valois, who wanted him to continue in both capacities, he got his way, and from 1955 his contract with the company (on a slightly reduced salary) was purely as a choreographer.[19] His only Covent Garden appearances as a dancer after that were two performances as an Ugly Step-sister in Cinderella alongside Ashton in 1956.[20]


MacMillan next produced a series of one-act ballets. For the junior company he choreographed House of Birds (1955), based on the Grimm brothers' Jorinde and Joringel,[21] and for Covent Garden he created Noctambules (1956) about a Svengali-like hypnotist.[22] He also worked in television, with Punch and the Child (1954), The Dreamers, a television adaptation of Sonambulism, and Turned Out Proud (1955).[23] In 1956 he took leave of absence to spend five months in New York, working with American Ballet Theatre, choreographing Winter's Eve and Journey for the dramatic ballerina Nora Kaye.[1] For the Covent Garden opera company he staged the Venusberg ballet in Tannhäuser, regarded by some critics as the best part of a disappointing production.[24]

MacMillan was the first of his generation of choreographers to have an entire evening of his works presented by the Sadler's Wells Ballet.[25] In June 1956 his new "divertissement ballet" Solitaire was given in a quadruple bill with Somnambulism, House of Birds and Danses concertantes.[26] His 1958 work, The Burrow, with its menacing echoes of war, oppression and concealment, won praise for venturing into territory seldom explored in ballet. The critic in The Times admitted that its dramatic impact was strong enough "to make one glad when it ends".[27] The work marked the beginning of MacMillan's association with Lynn Seymour, who was his muse for many subsequent ballets.[1] The company had by now been granted a royal charter and was known as the Royal Ballet, with the smaller company based at Sadler's Wells called the Royal Ballet Touring Company.[28]

Margot Fonteyn, whose casting as Juliet dismayed MacMillan despite public acclaim

In the late 1950s MacMillan choreographed two musicals: one for the stage (The World of Paul Slickey, 1958) and one for the cinema (Expresso Bongo, 1959).[29] The Invitation, first shown at the Royal Opera House on 30 December 1960, is probably MacMillan's most controversial ballet. This one-act work about rape was interpreted by Lynn Seymour and Desmond Doyle and provoked, at the time, mixed reactions in the press and the audience.[30] Among MacMillan's works for the Royal Ballet in the early 1960s was The Rite of Spring (1962); he selected an unknown junior dancer, Monica Mason, to dance the lead role of the chosen maiden who dances herself to death in a primitive ritual. Dance and Dancers described it as "a singular and signal triumph"; Mason's performance was judged "brilliantly done ... one of British ballet's most memorable performances".[31] In The Times John Percival commented that ever since Nijinsky's original attempt in 1913 The Rite had been waiting for a choreographer who could make it work on stage, and MacMillan's was the most successful version to date.[32]

In the mid-1960s two of his ballets, though both immensely successful, strained relations between MacMillan and the Royal Opera House management. In 1964 Webster and the Covent Garden board turned down MacMillan's proposal to create a ballet using the music of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde The Song of the Earth; the decision was made on the grounds that the score was unsuitable for use as a ballet.[n 5] Cranko, by now in charge of the Stuttgart Ballet, invited MacMillan to create the work there in 1965. It was a huge success, and within six months the Royal Ballet had taken the piece up.[34] MacMillan's first full-length, three-act ballet, Romeo and Juliet (1965), to Prokofiev's score, was choreographed for Seymour and Christopher Gable, but at Webster's insistence the gala premiere was danced by Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev.[35] The decision was made for commercial rather than artistic reasons: Fonteyn and Nureyev were internationally known stars and guaranteed a full house at premium prices, as well as huge publicity.[36] In Parry's words, MacMillan and his two chosen dancers felt betrayed.[1]

Berlin, 1966–69[edit]

Disillusioned with Covent Garden, MacMillan accepted an invitation from the Deutsche Oper in Berlin to run its ballet company.[15] Parry describes this as an unhappy experience. Though at Covent Garden Webster may sometimes have been suspected of favouring the opera at the expense of the ballet,[37] MacMillan discovered that at the Berlin house there was no doubt that the ballet was given distinctly lower priority. He did not speak German, which reduced his enjoyment from watching films (of which he was a great devotee) and theatre and limited him generally in everyday life. Although he had taken several colleagues with him, including Seymour, many moved away over the course of his nearly four years in charge, and MacMillan became increasingly isolated. It was the first time he had been in a managerial as well as a creative role, and the strain affected his physical and mental health. He smoked and drank heavily and suffered a minor stroke.[1]

For the Berlin company, MacMillan created seven ballets: Valses nobles et sentimentales, Concerto, Anastasia (one act version), The Sleeping Beauty, Olympiad, Cain and Abel and Swan Lake. The critic Jane Simpson considers that some of MacMillan's finest work was done for Berlin and Stuttgart.[15]

Royal Ballet: director 1970–77[edit]

In 1970 Ashton, who had been artistic director of the Royal Ballet since de Valois stepped down in 1963, retired, somewhat reluctantly.[38] Webster retired in the same year and wanted a wholesale change of management to coincide with his own departure.[39] For the opera he arranged the joint directorship of Colin Davis and Peter Hall, and for the ballet he secured MacMillan and John Field as co-directors.[40] Neither of the joint directorships succeeded. Hall did not take up his post, instead moving to run the National Theatre,[41] and Field, who had run the junior Royal Ballet company under de Valois and Ashton, found the split directorship untenable and left within months to become director of ballet at La Scala, Milan.[42]

The Royal Opera House, with statue of Katie Pianoff.

MacMillan was in an awkward position. It was widely known that Ashton had been forced out, and many resented it.[43] Company morale was lowered by an announcement, to which MacMillan and Field were party, that the two ballet companies would merge, with numerous job losses.[44] The managerial side of the post was no more congenial to MacMillan than it had been in Berlin, and some felt that his creative work suffered during his seven-year term.[3] His expansion of Anastasia into a three-act version (1971) and the other full-length work from this period, Manon (1974), divided opinion, receiving fiercely adverse reviews as well as laudatory ones.[3] His Joplin ballet Elite Syncopations (1974) and Requiem (1976) were immediately successful and have been regularly revived.[45] The latter was dedicated to the memory of Cranko, who had died suddenly in 1973. It was premiered at Stuttgart, because as with Song of the Earth the Royal Opera House board thought the chosen music – Fauré's Requiem – inappropriate for a ballet.[46] The work was not given at Covent Garden until 1983.[47]

At the age of 42 MacMillan, hitherto unmarried and enigmatic about his personal life, married the 26-year-old Australian painter Deborah Williams. The writer John Percival comments that MacMillan's marriage "saved him, both physically and mentally [and] gave him stability in his private life and seems to have resolved his confused sexuality".[16] There was one daughter of the marriage.[3]

Royal Ballet: principal choreographer 1977–92[edit]

After seven years as director of the Royal Ballet, MacMillan resigned in 1977, wishing to concentrate on choreography. He was succeeded as artistic director by Norman Morrice, whose background was the more avant garde Ballet Rambert.[48] MacMillan took up the post of principal choreographer. His fourth full-length ballet, Mayerling (1978), was a dark work, portraying the suicides of the Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf and his young mistress. Parry comments that some scenarios for his new one-act ballets featured similarly dark themes: "a disturbed family in My Brother, My Sisters, a lunatic asylum in Playground; Valley of Shadows ... included scenes in a Nazi concentration camp."[1] Different Drummer (1984) was a balletic version of Georg Büchner's Woyzeck, familiar to Covent Garden audiences from Berg's 1925 opera Wozzeck: all three depict the brutal fate of the downtrodden.[49] Even the lighter of MacMillan's ballets could have their serious side: La fin du jour (1979), to Ravel's Piano Concerto in G, depicts a way of life of the 1930s soon to be shattered by the Second World War, and is described by Crisp as "a requiem for the douceur de vivre of an era".[50]

In the 1980s MacMillan ventured into non-balletic theatre, directing productions of Strindberg's The Dance of Death (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 1983) and Tennessee Williams's Kingdom of Earth (Hampstead Theatre, 1984). Parry, writing in The Observer, thought that the drama in the first play failed to spring fully to life;[51] Michael Billington of The Guardian praised MacMillan's "immensely detailed, atmospheric production" of the second piece.[52] From 1984 to 1989, while remaining chief choreographer of the Royal Ballet, MacMillan was associate director of the American Ballet Theatre. For that company he staged new works, Wild Boy and Requiem (this time to Andrew Lloyd Webber's music rather than Fauré's), restaged his Romeo and Juliet, and created a new production of The Sleeping Beauty.[43]

Despite a serious heart attack in 1988 MacMillan continued to work intensely.[1] In 1989 he made his first new ballet for Covent Garden for five years, a new version of Britten's The Prince of the Pagodas. The company had never found the original 1956 Cranko version satisfactory, and it was neglected during the composer's lifetime. MacMillan thought the piece could be successfully reworked with some cuts to the score, but the Britten estate refused to allow any alterations.[53] MacMillan reverted to classical ballet for the piece, creating a fairy-tale work far from his accustomed style. The result was not judged among his best works, but it marked the emergence of the 19-year-old Darcey Bussell, whom he picked to dance the young heroine. Along with the former Bolshoi principal dancer Irek Mukhamedov, who joined the Royal Ballet in 1991, Bussell was MacMillan's final important muse. For the two of them he created Winter Dreams (1991), inspired by Chekhov's Three Sisters. Mukhamedov was the brutish male leading character in MacMillan's last ballet, The Judas Tree (1992).[54]

MacMillan died from a heart attack backstage at the Royal Opera House during a performance of 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 rise and bow their heads and leave the theatre in silence.[55] On the same night the junior company was presenting MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet in Birmingham.[56] MacMillan had nearly finished work on the dances for a new production of Carousel by the National Theatre, which opened at the Lyttelton Theatre six weeks later, with his family and many of his friends in the audience.[43]

Honours and awards[edit]

MacMillan was knighted in 1983, and he received honorary degrees from the University of Edinburgh (1976) and the Royal College of Art (1992). His awards include the Evening Standard Ballet Award (1979); Society of West End Theatre Managers Ballet Award, 1980 and 1983; and, posthumously, 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.[57][58]


Full-length ballets[edit]

Title Year Company Composer
asterisk denotes specially-written works
Principal performers Designer Notes
Romeo and Juliet 1965 Royal Ballet Prokofiev Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, David Blair, Desmond Doyle, Anthony Dowell, Derek Rencher, Michael Somes Nicholas Georgiadis Made on Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable, but the premiere was danced by Fonteyn and Nureyev
The Sleeping Beauty 1967 Deutsche Oper Ballet Tchaikovsky Lynn Seymour, Rudolf Holz, Vergie Derman, Hannelore Peters, Marion Cito, Barry Kay Production after Marius Petipa
Swan Lake 1969 Deutsche Oper Ballet Tchaikovsky Lynn Seymour, Frank Frey, Gerhard Bohner Nicholas Georgiadis Production after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Anastasia 1971 Royal Ballet Tchaikovsky, Symphonies No  1 and No 3; Martinů, Fantaisies symphoniques; and Electronic music by Fritz Winckel and Rüdiger Rüfer Lynn Seymour, Svetlana Beriosova, Antoinette Sibley, Derek Rencher, Anthony Dowell, Gerd Larsen, Vergie Derman, Jennifer Penney, Lesley Collier, David Wall Barry Kay Expanded version of one-act ballet of the same name (1967) – see below
The Sleeping Beauty 1973 Royal Ballet Tchaikovsky Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, Leslie Edwards, Gerd Larsen, Deanne Bergsma, Jennifer Penney Peter Farmer Production after Marius Petipa
Manon 1974 Royal Ballet Massenet, music from various operas, arranged by Leighton Lewis Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, David Wall, Monica Mason, Derek Rencher, David Drew Nicholas Georgiadis
Mayerling 1978 Royal Ballet Liszt, orchestral and piano works, arr John Lanchbery David Wall, Lynn Seymour, Merle Park, Georgina Parkinson, Michael Somes Nicholas Georgiadis
Isadora 1981 Royal Ballet Richard Rodney Bennett* Merle Park, Derek Deane, Julian Hosking, Derek Rencher Barry Kay Mary Miller, acting, non-dancing role
The Sleeping Beauty 1987 American Ballet Theatre Tchaikovsky Susan Jaffe, Robert Hill, Leslie Browne, Victor Barbee, Marianna Tcherkassky, Johan Renvall Nicholas Georgiadis Production after Marius Petipa
The Prince of the Pagodas 1989 Royal Ballet Britten Darcey Bussell, Jonathan Cope, Tetsuya Kumakawa, Fiona Chadwick, Anthony Dowell Nicholas Georgiadis

Shorter works[edit]

Title Year Company Composer
asterisk denotes specially-written works
Principal performers Designer Notes
Somnambulism 1953 Choreographers Group Stan Kenton, arr John Lanchbery Maryon Lane, David Poole, Kenneth MacMillan MacMillan danced in this at short notice.
Fragment 1953 Choreographers Group Stan Kenton Sara Neil, Donald Britton, Annette Page
Punch and the Child 1954 BBC Television Richard Arnell, Punch and the Child Kenneth MacMillan, Susan Handy
Laiderette 1954 Choreographers Group Frank Martin, Petite symphonie concertante Maryon Lane, David Poole, Johaar Mosavaal
Steps into Ballet 1954 BBC Television Richard Arnell Peggy van Praagh, Maureen Bruce, Donald Britton, Susan Solomon, Kenneth MacMillan Michael Yates
Danses concertantes 1955 Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet Stravinsky, Danses concertantes Maryon Lane, Donald Britton, David Poole, Sara Neil, Gilbert Vernon, Annette Page, Donald MacLeary, Bryan Lawrence Nicholas Georgiadis MacMillan's first collaboration with Georgiadis
House of Birds 1955 Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet Mompou, Variations on a Theme of Chopin Maryon Lane, David Poole, Doreen Tempest Nicholas Georgiadis
Turned Out Proud 1955 BBC Television Englund, Sibelius, Françaix and others Violette Verdy, Annette Chappell, Sonia Hana, Sheila O’Neil, Gilbert Vernon
Tannhäuser: Venusberg Ballet 1955 Covent Garden Opera Ballet Wagner Julia Farron, Gilbert Vernon Ralph Koltai
Noctambules 1956 Sadler's Wells Ballet Humphrey Searle, Noctambules* Leslie Edwards, Maryon Lane, Nadia Nerina, Desmond Doyle, Brian Shaw Nicholas Georgiadis
Solitaire 1956 Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet Malcolm Arnold, English Dances; Sarabande* and Polka* Margaret Hill, Sara Neil, Donald Britton, Michael Boulton, Donald MacLeary Desmond Heeley
Fireworks pas de deux 1956 Ballet Highlights Stravinsky, Feu d'artifice Nadia Nerina, Alexis Rassine Commissioned by Nerina and Rassine for a touring ballet show
Valse eccentrique 1956 Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet Ibert, Valse from Divertissement Anya Linden, Brian Shaw, Alexander Grant Single performance only, at a gala evening; described by The Times as "a burlesque pas de trois on an old-fashioned aquatic scene … new and comic, though insubstantial
Winter's Eve 1957 American Ballet Theatre Britten, Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge Nora Kaye, John Kriza Nicholas Georgiadis
Journey 1957 American Ballet Theatre, Choreographic Group Bartók, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, arr Joseph Levine Nora Kaye, John Kriza, Erik Bruhn, Scott Douglas
The Burrow 1958 Royal Ballet Touring Company Frank Martin, Concerto for seven wind instruments, kettledrums and strings Anne Heaton, Donald Britton, Lynn Seymour, Donald MacLeary, Edward Miller, Noreen Sopwith Nicholas Georgiadis MacMillan's first work made on Lynn Seymour
Agon 1958 Royal Ballet Stravinsky, Agon David Blair, Anya Linden, Pirmin Trecu, Shirley Graham, Annette Page, Maryon Lane, Graham Usher, John Stevens, Deidre Dixon, Ronald Hynd, Judith Sinclair, Georgina Parkinson, Antoinette Sibley, Doreen Wells Nicholas Georgiadis
The World of Paul Slickey 1959 Palace Theatre Christopher Whelen* Adrienne Corri and cast Hugh Casson (sets); Jocelyn Rickards (costumes) West End show
Expresso Bongo 1959 Val Guest Productions Robert Farnon* Laurence Harvey, Sylvia Syms, Yolande Donlan, Cliff Richard Cinema film loosely based on West End show
Le Baiser de la fée 1960 Royal Ballet Stravinsky, Le Baiser de la fée Svetlana Beriosova, Meriel Evans, Donald MacLeary, Lynn Seymour, Jacqueline Daryl Kenneth Rowell
The Invitation 1960 Royal Ballet Touring Company Mátyás Seiber* Lynn Seymour, Christopher Gable, Shirley Bishop, Barbara Remington, Sheila Humphrey, Anne Heaton, Desmond Doyle Nicholas Georgiadis
Orpheus 1961 Royal Opera Ballet Gluck Anne Heaton, Alexander Bennett Dances for revival of Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice
The Seven Deadly Sins 1961 Western Theatre Ballet Weill, The Seven Deadly Sins Anya Linden Ian Spurling Ballet chanté – lyrics by Berthold Brecht, translated by W H Auden. Singer, Cleo Laine
Diversions 1961 Royal Ballet Bliss, Music for Strings Svetlana Beriosova, Donald MacLeary, Maryon Lane, Graham Usher Philip Prowse
The Rite of Spring 1962 Royal Ballet Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring Monica Mason Sidney Nolan
Dance Suite 1962 Royal Ballet School Milhaud, Suite Provençale Vergie Derman, Richard Cragun
Fantasia in C minor 1962 Bach, Fantasia in C minor Rudolf Nureyev Single performance, for Royal Academy of Dancing gala at Drury Lane
Symphony 1963 Royal Ballet Shostakovich, Symphony No 1 Antoinette Sibley, Donald MacLeary, Georgina Parkinson, Desmond Doyle Yolanda Sonnabend MacMillan's first collaboration with Sonnabend
Las Hermanas 1963 Stuttgart Ballet Frank Martin, Concerto for harpsichord and small orchestra Marcia Haydée, Birgit Keil, Ray Barra¸ Ruth Papendick Nicholas Georgiadis Based on Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba
Dark Descent 1963 ITV Carlos Chavez, Milhaud Marcia Haydée, Ray Barra James Goddard Version of the Orpheus myth, made for television
La Création du monde 1964 Royal Ballet Touring Ballet Milhaud, La Création du Monde Doreen Wells, Richard Farley, Elizabeth Anderton, Adrian Grater, Ronald Emblen James Goddard
Divertimento 1964 Bath Festival Bartók, Sonata for Solo Violin Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev Solo violin, Yehudi Menuhin, for whom Bartók wrote the work
Images of Love 1964 Royal Ballet Touring Company Peter Tranchell* Svetlana Beriosova, Lynn Seymour, Donald MacLeary, Rudolf Nureyev Barry Kay
Song of the Earth 1965 Stuttgart Ballet Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde Marcia Haydée, Ray Barra, Egon Madsen, Ana Cardus Nicholas Georgiadis for the London premiere in 1966, no designer mentioned at Stuttgart Margarethe Bence (mezzo-soprano), James Harper (tenor)
Albertine, or The Crimson Curtain 1966 BBC Television not known Lynn Seymour, Desmond Doyle
Valses nobles et sentimentales 1966 Deutsche Oper Ballet Ravel, Valses nobles et sentimentales Didi Carli, Falco Kapuste, Vergie Derman, Silvia Kesselheim, Gert Schulze, Gerhard Bohner Jürgen Rose
Concerto 1966 Deutsche Oper Ballet Shostakovich, Piano Concerto No 2 Didi Carli, Falco Kapuste, Lynn Seymour, Rudolf Holz, Silvia Kesselheim Jürgen Rose
Anastasia, one-act version 1967 Deutsche Oper Ballet Martinů, Fantaisies symphoniques; and electronic music by Fritz Winckel and Rudiger Rufer* Lynn Seymour, Rudolf Holz, Vergie Derman, Gerhard Bohner Barry Kay Later became Act III of full-length version
Olympiade 1968 Deutsche Oper Ballet Stravinsky, Symphony in Three Movements Lynn Seymour, Hennelore Peters, Klaus Beelitz, Rudolf Holz, Falco Kapuste
The Sphinx/Der Sphinx 1968 Stuttgart Ballet Milhaud, Five Small Symphonies Marcia Haydée, Egon Madsen, Richard Cragun, Heinz Clauss Elizabeth Dalton
Cain and Abel/Kain und Abel 1968 Deutsche Oper Ballet Panufnik, Sinfonia Sacra and Tragic Overture Frank Frey, Daniel Job, Dorothea Binner, Rudolf Holz, Gerhard Bohner Barry Kay Music revised by the composer, with added material
Olympiad, reworking of Olympiade 1969 Royal Ballet Stravinsky, Symphony in Three Movements Deanne Bergsma, Keith Rosson, Robert Mead
Miss Julie 1970 Stuttgart Ballet Panufnik, Nocturne, Rhapsody, Autumn Music and Polonia Marcia Haydée, Frank Frey, Birgit Keil Barry Kay Music revised by the composer, with added material
Checkpoint 1970 Royal Ballet New Group Gerhard, Symphony No 3 (Collages) Svetlana Beriosova, Donald MacLeary Elizabeth Dalton
Pas de sept 1971 Royal Ballet Tchaikovsky, The Sleeping Beauty Deanne Bergsma, Lesley Collier, Vergie Denman, Ann Jenner, Georgina Parkinson, Jennifer Penney, Diana Vere Barry Kay Adapted by MacMillan from his Deutsche Oper production of the full ballet
Triad 1972 Royal Ballet Prokofiev, Violin Concerto No 1 Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, Wayne Eagling, David Ashmole, Peter O’Brien, Gary Sherwood Peter Unsworth Ralph Holmes, solo violin
Ballade 1972 Royal Ballet New Group Fauré, Ballade for piano and orchestra Vyvyan Lorrayne, Paul Clarke, Nicholas Johnson, Stephen Jefferies
Side Show pas de deux 1972 Royal Ballet New Group Stravinsky, Suites Nos 1 and 2 for small orchestra Lynn Seymour, Rudolf Nureyev Thomas O'Neil
The Poltroon 1972 Royal Ballet New Group Rudolf Maros, Studies for Orchestra and Musica di Ballo Brenda Last, Stephen Jefferies, Donald MacLeary, David Gordon, Carl Myers, Graham Bart, Ashley Killar Thomas O'Neil
Pavane pas de deux 1973 Royal Ballet Fauré, Pavane Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell Anthony Dowell
The Seven Deadly Sins 1973 Royal Ballet Weill, The Seven Deadly Sins Jennifer Penney Ian Spurling Georgia Brown, singer
Gala pas de deux 1974 Royal Ballet Stravinsky, slow movement of Symphony in Three Movements Natalia Makarova, Donald MacLeary Gala to mark the retirement of Lord Drogheda as chairman of the ROH board
Elite Syncopations 1974 Royal Ballet Scott Joplin, piano and orchestral rags, and pieces by Paul Pratt, James Scott, Joseph Lamb, Max Morath, Donald Ashwander and Robert Hampton Merle Park, Donald MacLeary, Monica Mason, Michael Coleman, Jennifer Penney, David Wall, Vergie Derman, Wayne Sleep, Wayne Eagling, Jennifer Jackson, Judith How, David Drew, David Adams Ian Spurling
The Four Seasons 1975 Royal Ballet Verdi, music from I vespri siciliani, I Lombardi and Don Carlo Vergie Derman, Marguerite Porter, Donald MacLeary, Lesley Collier, Michael Coleman, David Ashmole, Wayne Eagling, Monica Mason, David Wall, Anthony Dowell, Jennifer Penney, Wayne Sleep Peter Rice
Rituals 1975 Royal Ballet Bartók, Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion David Drew, Wayne Eagling, Stephen Beagley, Vergie Derman, David Wall, Lynn Seymour, Monica Mason, Graham Fletcher Yolanda Sonnabend
Requiem 1976 Stuttgart Ballet Fauré Requiem Marcia Haydée, Birgit Keil, Richard Cragun, Egon Madsen, Reid Anderson Yolanda Sonnabend In memory of John Cranko
Feux Follets solo 1976 Theatre of Skating Liszt, Transcendental Study No 5 John Curry created at MacMillan's suggestion for the ice-skater
Gloriana 1977 Royal Ballet Britten, Dances from Gloriana Lynn Seymour, Wayne Eagling, Michael Coleman, Stephen Beagley, Graham Fletcher Yolanda Sonnabend
My Brother, My Sisters 1978 Stuttgart Ballet Schoenberg and Webern orchestral pieces Birgit Keil, Richard Cragun, Lucia Montagnon, Reid Anderson, Jean Allenby, Sylviane Bayard, Hilde Koch Yolanda Sonnabend
6.6.78 1978 Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Barber, Capricorn Concerto Marion Tait, Desmond Kelly Ian Spurling Homage to Dame Ninette de Valois
Métaboles 1978 Paris Opera Ballet Dutilleux* Dominique Khalfouni, Patrice Bart, Patrick Dupond Barry Kay
La Fin du jour 1979 Royal Ballet Ravel, Piano Concerto in G major Merle Park, Jennifer Penney, Julian Hosking, Wayne Eagling Ian Spurling piano soloist, Philip Gammon
Playground 1979 Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Gordon Crosse* Marion Tait, Desmond Kelly, Stephen Wicks, Judith Rowann Yolanda Sonnabend
Gloria 1980 Royal Ballet Poulenc, Gloria Wayne Eagling, Julian Hosking, Jennifer Penney, Wendy Ellis Andy Klunder
Waterfalls pas de deux 1980 Charity gala Paul McCartney, "Waterfalls" Anthony Dowell, Jennifer Penney
Wild Boy 1981 American Ballet Theatre Gordon Crosse, Wildboy Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Kevin MacKenzie, Robert La Fosse Oliver Smith (costumes), Willa Kim (scenery)
A Lot of Happines 1981 Granada Television Birgit Keil, Vladimir Klos Deborah MacMillan Documentary about the making of the ballet
Verdi Variations pas de deux 1982 Aterballetto Verdi, String Quartet in E minor, first movement Elisabetta Terabust, Peter Schaufuss First part of Quartet
Quartet 1982 Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Verdi, String Quartet in E minor Sherilyn Kennedy, David Ashmole, Galina Samsova, Desmond Kelly, Marion Tait, Carl Myers, Sandra Madgwick, Roland Price Deborah MacMillan Includes Verdi Variations pas de deux
Orpheus 1982 Royal Ballet Stravinsky, Orpheus Peter Schaufuss, Jennifer Penney, Wayne Eagling, Ashley Page, Derek Deane, Bryony Brind, Genesia Rosato, Michael Batchelor, Antony Dowson Nicholas Georgiadis
Valley of Shadows 1983 Royal Ballet Martinů, Double Concerto; Tchaikovsky, Hamlet, Entr'acte and Elegy; Souvenir de Florence, 2nd movement Alessandra Ferri, Sandra Conley, Julie Wood, Derek Deane, Guy Niblett, David Wall, Ashley Page Yolanda Sonnabend
Different Drummer 1984 Royal Ballet Webern, Passacaglia for Orchestra, Op. 1; Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht Wayne Eagling, Alessandra Ferri, Stephen Jefferies, Guy Niblett, David Drew, Jonathan Burrows, Jonathan Cope, Antony Dowson, Ross MacGibbon, Bruce Sansom, Stephen Sheriff Yolanda Sonnabend
The Seven Deadly Sins of the Bourgeoisie 1984 Royal Ballet and Granada Television Weill, The Seven Deadly Sins Alessandra Ferri, Leslie Brown, David Taylor, Birgit Keil, Vladimir Klos, Peter Baldwin, Robert North, Christopher Bruce, April Olrich, Kim Rosato, Wayne Aspinall, Peter Salmon Yolanda Sonnabend Mary Miller (speaker), Marie Angel, Robin Leggate, Stephen Roberts, Robert Tear, John Tomlinson (singers)
Gala pas de deux 1984 Royal Ballet Poulenc, Piano Concerto, slow movement Alessandra Ferri Deborah MacMillan
Tannhäuser: Venusberg Ballet 1984 Royal Opera Wagner Yolanda Sonnabend
Three Solos 1985 Contemporary Dance Trust Bach, Rachmaninoff, Telemann Christopher Bannerman, Linda Gibbs, Ross McKimn
Requiem 1986 American Ballet Theatre Andrew Lloyd Webber, Requiem Alessandra Ferri, Gil Boggs, Cynthia Harvey, Susan Jaffe, Leslie Browne, Ross Stretton, Kevin McKenzie, Clark Tippet Yolanda Sonnabend
Le Baiser de la fée 1986 Royal Ballet Stravinsky, Le Baiser de la fée Fiona Chadwick, Sandra Conley, Jonathan Cope, Maria Almeida Martin Sutherland
Sea of Troubles 1988 Dance Advance Webern and Martinů, Michael Batchelor, Susan Crow, Jennifer Jackson, Sheila Styles, Russell Maliphant, Stephen Sheriff Deborah MacMillan
Soirées musicales 1988 Royal Ballet School Rossini, arr Britten Dana Fouras, Gary Shuker, Tetsuya Kumakawa, Benjamin Tyrrell Ian Spurling
Farewell pas de deux 1990 Royal Ballet Tchaikovsky, Romance in F major Darcey Bussell, Irek Mukhamedov
Gala pas de deux 1990 Royal Ballet Richard Rodgers Darcey Bussell, Stuart Cassidy
Winter Dreams 1991 Royal Ballet Tchaikovsky, piano works; traditional Russian works (arr Philip Gammon) Darcey Bussell, Nicola Tranah, Viviana Durante, Gary Avis, Genesia Rosato, Anthony Dowell, Irek Mukhamedov, Stephen Wicks, Adam Cooper, Derek Rencher, Gerd Larsen Peter Farmer based_on Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters"
The Burrow 1991 Birmingham Royal Ballet Frank Martin, Concerto for seven wind instruments, kettledrums and strings Marion Tate, Desmond Kelly, Anina Landa Nicholas Georgiadis Restaging of 1958 work
Gala pas de deux 1991 Royal Ballet Poulenc, Piano Concerto, slow movement Leanne Benjamin, Stephen Jefferies Reworking of 1984 gala pas de deux
The Judas Tree 1992 Royal Ballet Brian Elias* Irek Mukhamedov, Viviana Durante, Michael Nunn, Mark Silver, Luke Heydon Jock McFadyen
Carousel, posthumous 1992 National Theatre Richard Rodgers, Carousel
Sources: Royal Opera House performance database,[59] Parry,[60] and Kenneth MacMillan website.[61]

Notes, references and sources[edit]


  1. ^ A fifth died in infancy.[1]
  2. ^ Webster's official title was General Administrator.[4]
  3. ^ Parry comments that the only role MacMillan enjoyed performing in this period was as half of the comic drag duo of the Ugly Step-sisters in Ashton's Cinderella; there, MacMillan felt less exposed under the grotesque makeup and costume.[11]
  4. ^ Unknown to de Valois, MacMillan had already attended some of the rival sessions under Rambert's auspices.[14]
  5. ^ This was the second time the board had vetoed the proposal: MacMillan had been refused in 1959, despite support from de Valois.[33]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Parry, Jann. "MacMillan, Sir Kenneth (1929–1992)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, January 2008, retrieved 22 November 2014. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ Parry, pp. 36–39
  3. ^ a b c d e "Sir Kenneth MacMillan", The Times, 31 October 1992, p. 15
  4. ^ Haltrecht, p. 318
  5. ^ Haltrecht, pp. 55 and 66–67
  6. ^ Parry, p. 61
  7. ^ Thorpe, p. 12
  8. ^ Parry, pp. 77–78
  9. ^ Parry, p. 81
  10. ^ a b "A guide to Sir Kenneth MacMillan", at the Royal Opera House. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  11. ^ Parry, p. 106
  12. ^ Thorpe, pp. 17–18
  13. ^ Parry, p. 113
  14. ^ Parry, pp. 109–110
  15. ^ a b c Simpson, Jane. "Kenneth MacMillan: For Better or For Worse?", Dance View, 15.4, Summer 1998, pp. 3–5 (subscription required)
  16. ^ a b Percival, John. "Different Drummer", Dance View, 27.1, Winter 2010, pp. 30–32 (subscription required)
  17. ^ a b Parry, p. 708
  18. ^ Crisp, Clement. "Maker of Dances" Archived 9 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 30 November 2014
  19. ^ Parry, p. 152
  20. ^ "Kenneth MacMillan", Royal Opera House performance database. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  21. ^ "House of Birds" Archived 3 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 30 November 2014
  22. ^ "Noctambules" Archived 3 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 30 November 2014
  23. ^ "Turned Out Proud" Archived 3 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 30 November 2014
  24. ^ Heyworth, Peter. "'Tannhauser' Misproduced", The Observer, 27 November 1955, p. 9 (subscription required); and "Tannhäuser (Venusberg)" Archived 3 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 30 November 2014
  25. ^ "Solitaire" Archived 3 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 30 November 2014
  26. ^ "Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet", The Times, 8 June 1956, p. 3
  27. ^ "The Royal Ballet", The Times, 3 January 1958, p. 3
  28. ^ "Britain's 'Royal Ballet'", The Times, 17 January 1957, p. 3
  29. ^ Parry, pp. 209 and 211
  30. ^ The Royal Opera House Magazine, January 2016, p. 66.
  31. ^ "The Rite of Spring", Dance and Dancers, 25 October 1962, p. 16
  32. ^ Percival, John. "A Gala Worthy of the Name", The Times, 4 May 1962, p. 20
  33. ^ Parry, p. 217
  34. ^ "Song of the Earth", Royal Opera House archive, retrieved 30 November 2014
  35. ^ Haltrecht, p. 277
  36. ^ Parry, p. 285
  37. ^ Haltrecht, pp. 209–211
  38. ^ Parry, p. 341
  39. ^ Parry, p. 321
  40. ^ Haltrecht, p. 301; and "Frederick Ashton to Retire", The Times, 27 April 1968, p. 1
  41. ^ Waymark, Peter. "Peter Hall will not take Royal Opera job", The Times, 8 July 1971, p. 1
  42. ^ "John Field", Encyclopædia Britannica, retrieved 30 November 2014
  43. ^ a b c "Biography" Archived 17 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 30 November 2014
  44. ^ Percival, John. "Royal Ballet reshaping will save £100,000", The Times, 10 January 1970, p. 2
  45. ^ "Elite Syncopations" and "Requiem", Royal Opera House performance database, retrieved 30 November 2014
  46. ^ Parry, p. 458
  47. ^ "Requiem", Royal Opera House performance database, retrieved 30 November 2014
  48. ^ Meisner, Nadine. "Norman Morrice: Modernising director of Rambert and the Royal Ballet", The Independent, 16 January 2008
  49. ^ "Different Drummer" Archived 3 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 1 December 2014
  50. ^ Crisp, Clement. "La Fin du Jour", The Financial Times, 16 March 1979, p. 21
  51. ^ Parry, Jann. "Cosmetics", The Observer, 18 September 1983, p. 32 (subscription required)
  52. ^ Billington, Michael, "Kingdom of Earth", The Guardian, 28 April 1984, p. 10 (subscription required)
  53. ^ Parry, p. 664
  54. ^ "The Judas Tree" Archived 3 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 1 December 2014
  55. ^ Anderson, Jack. " Sir Kenneth MacMillan, 62, Choreographer, Dies", The New York Times, 31 October 1992
  56. ^ Parry, pp. 699–700
  57. ^ "MacMillan, Sir Kenneth", Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, April 2014, retrieved 22 November 2014 (subscription required)
  58. ^ Lister, David "National's night of triumph: West End productions lose out as subsidised theatre dominates Olivier awards", The Independent, 19 April 1993; and Nightingale, Benedict. "For Tonys, read Brits – Tony awards", The Times, 14 June 1994
  59. ^ "Kenneth MacMillan", Royal Opera House performance database, retrieved 2 December 2014
  60. ^ Parry, pp. 708–720
  61. ^ "Ballets" Archived 15 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine Kenneth MacMillan, retrieved 2 December 2014


  • Haltrecht, Montague (1975). The Quiet Showman: Sir David Webster and the Royal Opera House. London: Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-211163-8.
  • Parry, Jann (2009). Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth MacMillan. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-24302-0.
  • Thorpe, Edward (1985). Kenneth MacMillan: The Man and the Ballets. London: Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 978-0-241-11694-4.

External links[edit]