Brian MacDonald

(b. 1928)

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(b Montreal, 14 May 1928)

Canadian dancer, choreographer, and ballet director, the first Canadian choreographer to gain international acclaim. He worked as a music critic (1949–51) while studying dance with Gerald Crevier and Elizabeth Leese in Montreal and became one of the founding members of the National Ballet of Canada (1951–3). After suffering an injury he turned to choreography, initially working in television and variety shows, then from 1958 with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He created many works for the company including The Darkling (1958), Rose Latulippe (the first Canadian full-length ballet, 1966), The Shining People of Leonard Cohen (1970), and Ballet High (1970). In 1964 he was appointed artistic director of the Royal Swedish Ballet, choreographing While the Spider Slept (1965) and Skymning (1966) for the company before leaving in 1966. He was then director of the Harkness Ballet (1967–8), for which he choreographed Firebird (1967), and of Batsheva Dance Company (1971–2), for which he choreographed Martha's Vineyard (1971). MacDonald also created works for other companies during this period including Time Out of Mind for the Joffrey (1963), Prothalamion for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (1961), and Variations on a Simple Theme (Diabelli Variations) for the Paris Opera (1974). In 1974 he moved on to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens first as artistic director and from 1977 to 1990 as resident choreographer. Among the works he created there were Romeo and Juliet (1975), Double Quartet and Fête Carignan (both 1978), and Adieu Robert Schumann (1979). During this period he additionally created Newcomers (1980) for the National Ballet of Canada, a portrait of early Canadian pioneers, and Petrushka (1998) for the Gothenburg Ballet, updating the ballet to the ganglands of modern Russia. Other companies with Macdonald's work in their repertoire included the Berlin Opera Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He also worked extensively as stage director for musicals, opera, and operetta, particularly at Canada's Stratford Festival where he became associate director in 1983. Among his best-known works are The Mikado (which toured to both New York and London in the 1980s) and The Music Man (1996). Between 1982 and 2002 he was director of the dance programme at the Banff Centre for the Arts, for which he staged several works and also directed the dance content of its summer festival.

Subjects: Dance.

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