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Viviana Durante (born 8 May 1967) is a retired English-trained Italian ballet dancer, considered one of the greatest dramatic ballerinas of her generation.[1] She was a principal dancer of The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Teatro alla Scala and K-Ballet.

Viviana Durante
Durante 00.png
Viviana Durante as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (1994)
Born (1967-05-08) 8 May 1967 (age 52)
Rome, Italy
ResidenceLondon, England
OccupationBallet dancer
Years active1984-2013
Height1.57 m (5 ft 2 in)
Spouse(s)Nigel Cliff (m. 1995)
AwardsPrix de Lausanne
Evening Standard Ballet Award
Laurence Olivier Award
WebsiteOfficial website


Early careerEdit

Durante was born in Rome and started ballet there at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma at six years old. Spotted by ballerina Galina Samsova at age ten, she joined the lower school of the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge in Richmond Park, London. A year later she was the subject of a Thames Television documentary entitled I really want to dance. In 1983 she graduated to the upper school, but within a year, aged 17, she was invited to join the Royal Ballet Company. At 19 she was promoted to soloist and at 21 she became a principal dancer. At the time she was the Royal Ballet's youngest principal, and a year later, in 1990, she became the youngest ever artist to receive the Evening Standard Ballet Award.

Royal Ballet CompanyEdit

At the Royal Ballet, Durante danced all the main roles in ballets by Sir Kenneth MacMillan (Manon, Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling, Different Drummer, My Brother, My Sisters, Requiem, Elite Syncopations, Gloria, The Prince of the Pagodas and Anastasia, for which she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award),[2] Sir Frederick Ashton (Cinderella, La fille mal gardée, Rhapsody, Ondine, A Month in the Country, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Symphonic Variations, Les Patineurs, Birthday Offering, Scènes de ballet, Thaïs pas de deux) and from the classical repertory (Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere, Don Quixote, Les Biches, Raymonda, Diana and Actaeon, Sylvia pas de deux).

She created roles in MacMillan's The Judas Tree and Winter Dreams (based on Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters), in Wayne McGregor's Fleur de Peux, in Ashley Page's Pursuit, Piano, Bloodlines, languorous, now wild... and Cheating, Lying, Stealing, in Will Tuckett's Present Histories, in David Bintley's Tombeaux and in Amedeo Amodio's Cabiria.

In 1992 Durante and her fellow principal Darcey Bussell were the subjects of a South Bank Show documentary Two Ballerinas at the Royal Ballet (UK: Two Royal Ballet Dancers), and the following year both were invited by the New York City Ballet for the Balanchine Celebration at the New York State Theater.

In 1995, she appeared in the title role of a ninety-minute version of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty, which was telecast on Great Performances by PBS during the Christmas season.[3] In 1998, Durante made a return to the Rome stage as a guest artist in Prokovsky's production of the Tchaikovsky ballet.

Durante appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan and Harpers and Queen magazines and was the subject of profiles in Vogue,[4] Elle, and Hello among many other publications. She modelled for photographic shoots for Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino and for catwalk shows by Maison Gattinoni, and featured in commercials for Toyota.

In 1999, a disagreement between Durante and The Royal Ballet, beginning when she was reportedly dropped by a fellow dancer, blew up into a national media storm.[5] After what the media called a 'dazzling 12-year career' as one of the British ballet's major stars,[6] Durante left the company two years later, in 2001.[7]

Subsequent careerEdit

Durante joined American Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer for the 1999 spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City. She subsequently appeared as a guest artist with many major international ballet companies including La Scala Milan, Tokyo Ballet and Semperoper Ballett Dresden. From 2003 to 2012 she was the leading ballerina of Japan's K-Ballet, founded by fellow Royal Ballet alumnus Tetsuya Kumakawa.

Among other ballets, she appeared in Bintley's Cyrano de Bergerac, in George Balanchine's Apollo, Ballet Imperial, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Who Cares? and Symphony in C, in Rudolf Nureyev's Laurentia, in Tetley's La Ronde, in Uwe Scholz's The Red and the Black, in Roland Petit's Coppelia, Carmen and Duke Ellington Ballet and in André Prokovsky's Anna Karenina.

She is a patron of The Hammond School and New English Ballet Theatre. In 2011 and 2016 she was a juror of the Prix de Lausanne. In 2010 a work choreographed by Durante premiered at Dance Base, Edinburgh [8] and the same year she collaborated with Richard Eyre on a dance adaptation of the film Truly, Madly, Deeply.[9]

In 2016 Durante obtained diplomas in dance education from the Royal Ballet School and Trinity College, London.[10] The same year, she returned to The Royal Ballet as a regular guest coach. [11]

In 2018 Durante founded Viviana Durante Company which debuted with Kenneth MacMillan: Steps Back in Time at the Barbican Centre.

Durante is the consultant and wrote the foreword for the 2018 DK book Ballet: The Definitive Illustrated History.[12]

Critical opinionEdit

Critics noted Durante's combination of immaculate technical skill and acting ability, describing her as a mercurial blend of Latin passion and British coolness.[13] Her Anastasia was widely appreciated and her Manon (with Russian dancer Irek Mukhamedov as Des Grieux, in particular), has been labelled as the definitive interpretation. Her performance in The Sleeping Beauty has been influential, and she has been called 'the most dramatic of dancers.'[14] The Independent called her an 'unsurpassable actress,' the Daily Telegraph 'one of the world's greatest dancers,' and the Mail on Sunday 'the future of ballet in Britain.'[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Durante is married to British author and journalist Nigel Cliff. They have a son and live in London.

Awards and honours (selected)Edit

  • Awarded Dancer of the Year in the UK, Japan, Italy, Chile
  • 1984 Prix de Lausanne
  • 1989 Time Out Award
  • 1989 Evening Standard Award
  • 1991 Premio Positano
  • 1997 Premio Internazionale "Gino Tani" per le Arti dello Spettacolo, Rome
  • 1997 Laurence Olivier Award – nominated for Anastasia
  • 2002 Premio Positano
  • 2003 Premio Vignale danza
  • 2006 Premio Bucchi
  • 2007 Premio Apulia
  • 2018 Premio Eccellenze della Danza
  • 2019 Premio Fabbrini, Florence




  1. ^ Rogai, Natasha (October – November 2016). "The Importance of Emotion". Dance Journal/HK. 18 (5): 16.
  2. ^ "Olivier Awards with MasterCard – Official Site". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Great Performances (1971– ) : The Sleeping Beauty". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  4. ^ British Vogue, October 1991
  5. ^ "'I gave the Royal Ballet the best years of my life. And this is how they thank me' | Stage". The Guardian. 18 April 1999. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  6. ^ Alexander, Stuart. "Dalton's thrilling battle". The Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Farewell for now, Viviana". Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  8. ^ Rebecca King (19 August 2010). "Elegantly Tearful". The Skinny. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  9. ^ David Benedict (30 December 2011). "Directors revived U.K. stage in 2011". Variety. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  10. ^ "The Royal Ballet School celebrates Diploma of Dance Teaching 2014-16 Graduate success". Royal Ballet School. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  11. ^ "Viviana Durante". Royal Opera House. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Ballet by DK". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  13. ^ David Lister. "Does a prima ballerina bounce?". The Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 March 2002. Retrieved 6 March 2002.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Press". 20 June 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2016.