News: Leanne Benjamin retires from the Royal Ballet

Thursday 4 April 2013 by Carmel Smith

Leanne Benjamin in Kenneth MacMillan's  'Different Drummer', 2008. Photo: Johan Persson, courtesy ROH

After 21 years, with the Royal Ballet, Principal Dancer Leanne Benjamin has announced she will retire from the stage in July this year at the age of 49. Her last performance in London will be be as Mary Vetsera in the season finale of Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling on 15 June – the role in which she made her debut with the company in 1992. Her final company performance will be on 10 July in A Gala Evening with The Royal Ballet at the Bunka Kaikan, Tokyo. as part of The Royal Ballet’s summer tour.

She said

“I am incredibly fortunate to have had such a long and exciting life as a ballerina, and I feel, with Mayerling at the end of the season, there would be no better way for me to draw my career as a dancer at the Opera House to a close. I realise how blessed I am to have had such a unique and expansive career, spanning many companies and working with a multitude of extra-ordinary people. I owe a great debt of gratitude to so many people who nurtured me in the early part of my career and, of course, having made The Royal Ballet my home for the last 20 years, I want to thank everyone there who has worked tirelessly to support me personally and professionally. I will always remain grateful and thankful for the opportunities I have enjoyed as a result of that support.”

Kevin O’Hare Director of The Royal Ballet added “Leanne has been such a huge part of The Royal Ballet for the last 21 years it is hard to imagine the Company without her. But, I am sure the memory of her unique and very special talent will remain with us through the many roles she created during her long career. Leanne will be much missed and we wish her well with all her future plans.”

Leanne Benjamin left Australia to join The Royal Ballet Upper School at the age of sixteen in 1980. She joined Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet in 1983 becoming a Principal in 1987. In 1988 she joined London Festival Ballet as a Principal, and in 1990 joined Deutche Oper Ballet in Berlin, both under the Directorship of Peter Schaufuss. Leanne joined The Royal Ballet as a First Soloist under Anthony Dowell in 1992 and made her debut with the Company in MacMilllan’s Mayerling as Mary Vestera. She was promoted to Principal in 1993.

She has danced all the leading classical roles and has also had an exceptional number of roles created on her throughout her career by choreographers including Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon, Ashley Page, Liam Scarlett, Alastair Marriott, Glen Tetley, Twyla Tharp, David Bintley, Kim Branstrup, Michael Corder and most recently Alexei Ratmansky.

Acclaimed for he performances in the MacMillan repertory, Leanne also worked with Frederick Ashton and Ninette De Valois and is one of the last line of dancers to have first hand experience of working with the founders of The Royal Ballet. She has danced under four of the Company’s eight directors in her career. In 2005 she was awarded an OBE in 2005 for Services to Dance.

Photo: Leanne Benjamin in Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Different Drummer’, 2008. By Johan Persson, courtesy ROH

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