The Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet
General information
Name The Royal Ballet
Previous names
  • Vic-Wells Ballet
  • Sadler's Wells Ballet
Year founded 1931
Patron HM The Queen
Principal venue Royal Opera House, London, UK
Senior staff
Prima ballerina assoluta Dame Margot Fonteyn
Artistic staff
Music Director
Resident Choreographers Wayne McGregor
Sister company Birmingham Royal Ballet
Associated schools Royal Ballet School

The Royal Ballet is an internationally renowned classical ballet company, based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, UK. The largest of the four major ballet companies in Great Britain, the Royal Ballet was founded in 1931 by Dame Ninette de Valois,[1] it became the resident ballet company of the Royal Opera House in 1946[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

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 employed four dancers considered to be Prima ballerina assoluta, including three who 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 trained at the Royal Ballet School and spent her entire career with the company. As a gift for her 60th birthday, she was appointed Prima ballerina assoluta by Queen Elizabeth II. Phyllis Spira joined the Royal Ballet School in 1959, graduating into the Royal Ballet touring company. She later returned to her native South Africa, where she was appointed Prima ballerina assoluta by the President in 1984. The most recent is Alessandra Ferri, who completed her training at the Royal Ballet Upper School and began her career with the Royal Ballet. After dancing with the company for 4 years, she was later appointed Prima ballerina assoluta of La Scala Theatre Ballet in Milan. Other prima ballerina assoluta have also appeared with the Royal Ballet as guest dancers, including the French ballerina Yvette Chauvire[6] and the Georgian ballerina Nina Ananiashvili.[7]


The Royal Ballet has six ranks of dancers in ascending order:

The Royal Ballet also has the special ranks of "guest artist and "principal guest artist". The title of guest artist is given to a visiting dancer who has been cast in a role for a specific ballet or limited season. The title of principal guest artist is sometimes given to guest artists who perform with the company on a longer term basis.

The company

The Royal Ballet employs approximately 100 dancers and a complete list is shown below.[8] The company also has an Executive, Artistic and Music staff, including the following:[9]

Principal dancers

Name Nationality Training Other companies
(inc. guest performances)
Carlos Acosta
Principal guest artist
 Cuba Cuban National Ballet School English National Ballet
National Ballet of Cuba
Houston Ballet
Federico Bonelli  Italy Turin Dance Academy Zürich Ballet
Dutch National Ballet
Alexander Campbell  Australia Academy Ballet
Royal Ballet School
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Australian Ballet
Lauren Cuthbertson  United Kingdom Royal Ballet School
Matthew Golding  Canada Royal Winnipeg Ballet School
Universal Ballet Academy
Royal Ballet School
American Ballet Theatre
Dutch National Ballet
Mariinsky Ballet
Tokyo Ballet
English National Ballet
National Ballet of Canada
Francesca Hayward  United Kingdom Royal Ballet School
Ryoichi Hirano  Japan Setsuko Hirano Ballet School
Nehemiah Kish  United States Canada's National Ballet School National Ballet of Canada
Royal Danish Ballet
Sarah Lamb  United States Boston Ballet School Boston Ballet
Steven McRae[13]  Australia Hilary Kaplan
Royal Ballet School
Laura Morera  Spain Royal Ballet School
Vadim Muntagirov  Russia Royal Ballet School English National Ballet
Marianela Núñez  Argentina Colón Theatre Ballet School
Royal Ballet School
Natalia Osipova
 Russia Moscow State Academy of Choreography Bolshoi Ballet
American Ballet Theatre
Mikhaylovsky Theatre
Iana Salenko
Guest Artist
 Ukraine Pisarev Ballet School, Donetsk Donetsk Ballet
Kiev Opera Ballet
Staatsballett Berlin
Thiago Soares  Brazil Centre for Dance, Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theatre Ballet, Rio de Janeiro
Akane Takada  Japan Hiromi Takahashi Ballet Studio
Bolshoi Ballet Academy
Edward Watson  United Kingdom Royal Ballet School
Zenaida Yanowsky  Spain Anatol Yanowsky and Carmen Robles Paris Opera Ballet

Principal character artists

First soloists


  • Luca Acri
  • Christina Arestis
  • Matthew Ball
  • Olivia Cowley
  • Tristan Dyer
  • Nicol Edmonds
  • Elizabeth Harrod
  • Tierney Heap
  • Meaghan Grace Hinkis
  • Jonathan Howells (Assistant Ballet Master)
  • Fumi Kaneko
  • Paul Kay
  • Emma Maguire
  • Mayara Magri
  • Laura McCulloch (Assistant Ballet Mistress)
  • Kristen McNally
  • Fernando Montaño
  • Marcelino Sambe
  • Eric Underwood
  • Thomas Whitehead

First artists

  • Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani
  • Sander Blommaert
  • Camille Bracher
  • Reece Clarke
  • David Donnelly
  • Benjamin Ella
  • Kevin Emerton
  • Hayley Forskitt
  • Isabella Gasparini
  • Nathalie Harrison
  • Tomas Mock
  • Erico Montes
  • Sian Murphy
  • Anna Rose O'Sullivan
  • Romany Pajdak
  • Demelza Parish
  • Gemma Pitchley-Gale
  • Leticia Stock
  • Lara Turk


  • Lukas Bjorneboe Braendsrod
  • Grace Blundell
  • Mica Bradbury
  • Annette Buvoli
  • Harry Churches
  • Ashley Dean
  • Leo Dixon
  • Téo Dubreuil
  • Solomon Golding
  • Hannah Grennell
  • Chisato Katsura
  • Isabel Lubach
  • Calvin Richardson
  • Julia Roscoe
  • Mariko Sasaki
  • Gina Storm-Jensen
  • Joseph Sissens
  • David Yudes
  • Julian MacKay (Prix de Lausanne dancer)

Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme

  • Joseph Aumeer
  • Estelle Bovay
  • Maria Luisa Castillo Yoshida
  • Arianna Maldini
  • Giacomo Rovero
  • Francisco Serrano
  • Charlotte Tonkinson


Sir Frederick Ashton

Main article: 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 choreographer 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.

Works choreographed

Ashton created over 100 original ballet works and numerous other productions, some of the most notable including:

Sir Kenneth MacMillan

Main article: 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.

Works choreographed

His full-length works include:

MacMillan's one-act ballets include:

Wayne McGregor

Main article: 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.

Works choreographed

McGregor's works for the Royal Ballet include:

  • Fleur de Peux
  • Symbiont(s)
  • Qualia
  • Engram
  • Chroma
  • Limen
  • Nimbus
  • Infra
  • Live Fire Exercise
  • Carbon Life


Main articles: Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev

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 that 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 people


Guest dancers


Artistic directors

Ross Stretton

Main article: 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:

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."[20]

Royal Opera House, Manchester

In 2008 the Royal Opera House and Manchester City Council began planning stages a new development known as Royal Opera House, Manchester. The proposal would have seen the Palace Theatre in Manchester receiving an £80 million refurbishment, to create a first-class theatre capable of staging productions by both the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera. It was intended that 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 have established the Palace Theatre as a designated base for the Royal Opera House companies in the North of England, a producing house for new ballet and opera, and a training centre for all aspects of theatre production. The proposals also had the potential to create 700 jobs for local people.[21][22]

The proposals were approved by the then Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham MP, and was accepted by a number of public bodies. However, the plans were revised to address the concerns put forward by those who are opposed to the plans. Issues that have been raised include:

A year later the Lowry sent an open letter to replacement Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Ben Bradshaw, Arts Council England, Manchester city council and the ROH, calling for the scheme, in its current form, to be scrapped. The Lowry said that it was not against the Royal Opera House coming to Manchester and proposed an alternative model whereby opera and music would be concentrated at the ROH's planned home, the Palace theatre, and the Lowry would become the centre for dance, hosting the Royal Ballet.[23] An independent report also suggested that the cost of the project would be £100 million with another £16 million needed annually for running costs of the new site.[24] In 2010 it was announced that the project was being shelved as part of larger arts-funding cuts.[24][25]

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.

See also


  1. 1 2
  2. Lynn Garafola (2005). Legacies of twentieth-century dance. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6674-8.
  3. Vaughan D. Frederick Ashton and his Ballets. A & C Black Ltd, London, 1977.
  4. "The Royal Ballet School – a brief history". 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  5. "Royal Ballet –British ballet company". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 August 2009.
  8. "The Royal Ballet: Artists". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  9. "The Royal Ballet: Staff". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  10. on Retrieved 12 December 2009
  11. On Retrieved 12 December 2009
  12. "Wayne McGregor To Become Resident Choreographer At The Royal Opera House". Huliq News. 3 December 2006. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  13. "The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae gives a ballet masterclass". Ballet News. 13 November 2012.
  14. "Darcey Bussell interviewed". Ballet News. 4 March 2010.
  15. Reynolds, Nigel (26 September 2001). "Royal Ballet shocked as Wildor quits". Daily Telegraph, 26 September 2001. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Reynolds, Mark (15 November 2010). "Swanning off, the ballet boss accused of affairs". Daily Telegraph, 26 September 2002. London.
  17. Brown, Ismene (27 September 2002). "Double whammy that toppled ballet boss". Daily Telegraph, 27 September 2002. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  18. 1 2 "Ross Stretton". Daily Telegraph, 17 June 2005. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  20. Royal Opera House. "Kevin O'Hare appointed new Director of The Royal Ballet". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
  21. Higgins, Charlotte (28 October 2008). "Disharmony over Royal Opera's plan to go north". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group.
  22. Staff writer (31 October 2008). "Northern opera proposal evaluated". BBC News. BBC.
  23. Brown, Mark (25 June 2009). "Threat to plan for Royal Opera House in the north". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group.
  24. 1 2 Staff writer (3 November 2010). "ROH shelves its plans to move north". The Stage. The Stage Media Company Ltd. Alternative link.
  25. Sharp, Rob (27 October 2010). "Royal Opera House shelves move north". The Independent. Independent Print Ltd.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/7/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.