MacMillan dies backstage at ballet

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The Independent Online
SIR Kenneth MacMillan, 62, one of Britain's most distinguished choreographers, died last night backstage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as his masterpiece Mayerling was being revived by the Royal Ballet, writes Anne Sacks.

Jeremy Isaacs, general director of the Opera House, came on stage after the first curtain call to say: 'You have just seen one of the masterpieces by a master. I regret to tell you that Kenneth MacMillan has suffered a heart attack and died.' He asked people to leave in silence. Some members of the audience sobbed while others were too stunned to show anything other than shock.

Also on stage during the announcement was Anthony Dowell, director of the Royal Ballet, for whom Sir Kenneth had choreographed some memorable parts.

Sir Kenneth was found in a corridor at the end of the second interval. He had told friends he was feeling unwell during Act One and wanted to go backstage.

The gloomy and tragic ending of Mayerling last night foreshadowed the announcement. Also last night the Birmingham Royal Ballet performed Sir Kenneth's version of Romeo and Juliet which, in contrast, is colourful and robust, illustrating his wide range and mastery of the art.

Sir Kenneth had been choreographing the musical Carousel for the National Theatre, which was due to open in December.

He had been principal choreographer to the Royal Ballet since 1977 and the American Ballet Theatre's artistic associate since 1984. He was knighted in 1983.

(Photograph omitted)