Peter Darrell


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(orig. Skinner; b Richmond, 16 Sept. 1929; d Glasgow, 2 Dec. 1987)

British dancer, choreographer, and director. He studied at Sadler's Wells Ballet School and danced with Sadler's Wells Ballet (1944–6) and then Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet (1946–7). He left to dance in musicals and with various companies including London Festival Ballet, and choreographed his first work Midsummer Watch for Ballet Workshop in 1951. In 1957 he founded Western Theatre Ballet with Elizabeth West and when she died in 1962 he became its sole director, moving with the company to Glasgow in 1969 where it became Scottish Theatre Ballet (now Scottish Ballet). From the beginning Darrell's choreography shaped his company's unique image. Prisoners (mus. Bartók, 1957) established his commitment to exploring social issues in dance while Mods and Rockers (mus. The Beatles, 1963) demonstrated his swiftness in responding to contemporary material and attracting young audiences. His theatrical instincts were displayed in works as various as Jeux (mus. Debussy, 1963) which turned Nijinsky's original libretto into a mystery ballet; Home (mus. Bartók, 1965) about a young woman in a mental hospital; and the ambitious 1966 piece Sun into Darkness (mus. Malcolm Williamson) about barbaric ritual in a Cornish village. When the company moved to Scotland Darrell was obliged to widen his range to cater for a larger audience, as in Tales of Hoffmann (mus. Offenbach, arr. Lanchbery, 1972) and Cinderella (mus. Rossini, 1979) and to stage productions of the classics such as Giselle (1971) and Swan Lake (1977). He also made works for several other companies, such as La Péri (mus. Dukas, London Festival Ballet, 1973), but it was with Scottish Ballet that he made his international reputation, nurturing a company of versatile dancers with a wide-ranging repertoire of experimental and classical work.

Subjects: Dance.

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