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Leanne Benjamin to retire

Posted on April 10, 2013

leanne benjamin in emeralds. photo by johan persson

leanne benjamin in emeralds. photo by johan perssonAfter 21 years with The Royal Ballet, Leanne Benjamin will retire in July 2013, at the end of the current season. Her last performance will be on July 10, in A Gala Evening with The Royal Ballet at the Bunka Kaikan, Tokyo as part of the company’s summer tour. Her final UK performance will be in Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling, at the Royal Opera House on June 15. She will dance Mary Vetsera – the role in which she made her debut with the company.


Born in Australia, Benjamin joined The Royal Ballet Upper School at 16. She won the Prix de Lausanne in 1981, and danced the title role of Giselle at her graduation performance in 1982, partnered by Jonathan Cope. She joined Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (now Birmingham Royal Ballet) in 1983, moving to London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) in 1988 and to Berlin’s Deutsche Oper Ballet in 1990. In Berlin, she worked with Kenneth MacMillan on Different Drummer. She joined The Royal Ballet in 1992.


Benjamin has danced all the leading classical roles, and has had roles created for her by choreographers including Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon, Liam Scarlett, Alastair Marriott, Glen Tetley, Twyla Tharp, David Bintley, Kim Brandstrup, Michael Corder and Alexei Ratmansky. Particularly admired in the MacMillan repertoire, Benjamin also worked with Frederick Ashton and Ninette de Valois, making her one of the last dancers to have first-hand experience of working with The Royal Ballet’s founders. She was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to dance.


Leanne Benjamin 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 extraordinary 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.”


Picture: Leanne Benjamin in George Balanchine’s Emeralds. Photograph: Johan Persson, courtesy of The Royal Opera House

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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