(b Nyköping, 3 Aug. 1908; d Stockholm, 8 Sept. 1999)
Swedish dancer, choreographer, and ballet director. Despite early training in both classical and modern dance, she decided to become a professional at the late age of 27 after seeing a performance of Kurt Jooss's The Green Table in Stockholm. She studied with Jooss and Sigurd Leeder at Dartington Hall in England (1935–9), and later with Graham in New York. She founded her first group in 1939 and in 1942 gave her first solo recital in Stockholm. With Ivo Cramér (her pupil) she founded the Swedish Dance Theatre in 1946, which toured Europe. Her breakthrough came in 1950 with Miss Julie, based on the Strindberg play (she had been a literature student at Stockholm University and frequently used literary sources for her ballets). Its success brought her to the attention of the Royal Swedish Ballet, where from 1952 to 1956 she was resident choreographer. She then pursued a freelance career, choreographing for the Royal Danish Ballet (The Moon Reindeer in 1957) and American Ballet Theatre (Lady from the Sea, 1960). In 1967 she returned to Sweden to found her own government-backed company, the Cullberg Ballet, which she directed until 1985. She made her last appearance as a dancer at the age of 68, performing in her son Mats Ek's ballet Soweto. A pioneer in the field of television dance, she made many ballets for the small screen; The Evil Queen won her the Prix d'Italia in 1961. Her ballets, strongly influenced by Jooss were known for their psychological depth and strong drama, although she was also known for her satiric humour. Her best-known works include Miss Julie (mus. T. Rangström, 1950), Medea (mus. Bartók–Sandberg, 1950), Romeo and Juliet (mus. Prokofiev, 1955, second version), The Moon Reindeer (mus. K. Riisager, 1957), Lady from the Sea (mus. Riisager, 1960), Eden (mus. H. Rosenberg, 1961), I Am Not You (mus. B. Brustad, 1966), Romeo and Juliet (mus. Prokofiev, 1969, third version), Bellman (mus. Beethoven, 1971), Revolt (mus. Bartók, 1973), and War Dances (mus. A. Petterson or Petersson, 1979). Two of her sons, Niklas and Mats Ek, also became dancers.