How Will You Describe Kenneth Macmillan? Sir Kenneth MacMillan (11 December 1929 – 29 October 1992), was a British dancer and choreographer. He worked for the company which became the Royal Ballet, becoming resident choreographer in 1965 and director in 1970. As a choreographer, he was a master at revealing the private ambitions and emotions that lurk below the surface of modern society, conveyed entirely through movement. He believed dance should reflect the realities and hardships of people’s lives, rather than just depict fairy tales.
His works were emotionally intense and often featured harsh themes: fear, isolation, oppression, war, violence and loss.Many Macmillan works were unusual in both form and content, but they remained faithful to the classical ballet tradition. MacMillan’s pioneering creativity unleashed over sixty new ballets that changed the dance landscape forever.
MacMillan’s choreographywas strongly rooted in classical ballet technique, with particular regard to the long lines of the arms, legs and feet. But he took the upright shapes and classic lines of traditional ballet vocabulary and made them more angular, abstract and off-balance to amplify the emotional impact. In his works, which were almost all narrative, he drew inspiration from literature and the hardships of his own life and those around him.
His beliefs about the potential of dance to explore the human condition, his determination that his work must reflect not the fantasies of nineteenth century swan-upping but the emotional crises known to men and women today, have sometimes made audiences uneasy. Ironically, his full-length ballets Romeo and Juliet; Manon; Mayerling, are among Covent Garden’s greatest draws and have achieved the status of repertory classics, while his short works are eagerly acquired by companies worldwide. He remains, as always, a very private man whose chief concern is still with finding new possibilities for movement.
Sir Kenneth MacMillan died during a performance of his ballet Mayerling at the Royal Opera House on 30th October 1992. Brought up in Great Yarmouth, at the age of fifteen MacMillan was awarded a scholarship to the Sadler’s Wells Ballet School. He was a founder member of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet in 1946, where he made his first experimental workshop ballets. MacMillan was a fine classical dancer, but it was as a choreographer that he excelled, and, through his choice of complex and difficult subject matter, advanced the frontiers of ballet.
In 1955 Dame Ninette de Valois, Director of the Royal Ballet, commissioned MacMillan’s first professional ballet Danses Concertantes. He went on to create a succession of one-act and full-evening ballets that are now performed in company repertoires throughout the world. He served as Director of Ballet at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (1966-1969), Resident Choreographer and Director with the Royal Ballet (1970-1977), Principal Choreographer of the Royal Ballet (1977-1992), and Artistic Associate of American Ballet Theatre (1984-1989). MacMillan was knighted in 1983.
Content for this question contributed by Joan Decarlo, resident of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA