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John Neumeier

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John Neumeier

Ballet Dancer

Royal Ballet School

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Chopin: La Dame aux camelias, Hamburg Ballet: Chopin: Die Kameliendame

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John Neumeier (born 24 February 1939) is an American ballet dancer, choreographer, and director. He has been the director and chief choreographer of Hamburg Ballet since 1973. Five years later he founded the Hamburg Ballet School, which also includes a boarding school for students. In 1996, Neumeier was made ballet director of Hamburg State Opera.


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Neumeier was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he received his first ballet training. After completing a B.A. in English literature and theater studies at Marquette University in 1961, he continued his training in Copenhagen with Vera Volkova and at the Royal Ballet School in London. In 1963 he joined the Stuttgart Ballet under John Cranko, rising to the rank of soloist. In 1969 Neumeier became director of the Frankfurt Ballet, before becoming director and chief choreographer at the Hamburg Ballet in 1973. From 1971 through 1974 Neumeier was also guest choreographer for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, where he provided repertoire and staged his version of The Nutcracker.

Noted works

John Neumeier Theater quotDie kleine Meerjungfrauquot in BadenBaden

Neumeier's choreographic output consists of more than 100 works, including a large number of evening-length narrative ballets. Many are drawn from literary sources, such as Don Juan (created for the Frankfurt Ballet, 1972), The Lady of the Camellias (Stuttgart Ballet, 1978), A Streetcar Named Desire (Stuttgart Ballet, 1983), Peer Gynt (1989), The Seagull (2002), Death in Venice (2003), The Little Mermaid (Royal Danish Ballet, 2005), Liliom (2011) and Tatiana (2014). Of particular importance are his adaptations of plays by William Shakespeare, including Romeo and Juliet (Frankfurt Ballet, 1971), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1977), Othello (1985), As You Like It (1985), Hamlet (Royal Danish Ballet, 1985) and VIVALDI, or What You Will (1996). He has reinterpreted and rechoreographed the seminal classics of the 19th century: The Nutcracker (Frankfurt Ballet, 1971), set in the world of 19th-century ballet, Illusions, like Swan Lake (1976), based loosely on the life of Ludwig II of Bavaria, The Sleeping Beauty (1978) and Giselle (2000). He has choreographed works on Biblical subjects, including The Legend of Joseph (Vienna State Ballet, 1977), Saint Matthew Passion (1981), Magnificat (Paris Opera Ballet, 1987), Requiem (1991), Messiah (1999) and Christmas Oratorio (2007, 2013), as well as ballets inspired by mythological subjects: Daphnis and Chloe (Frankfurt Ballet, 1972), Sylvia (Paris Opera Ballet, 1997), Orpheus (2009), Tristan (1982), The Saga of King Arthur (1982) and Parzival - Episodes and Echo (2006). Neumeier is particularly inspired by the life and work of Vaslav Nijinsky and has produced several ballets about him: Vaslav (1979), the full-length Nijinsky (2000) and Le Pavillon d'Armide (2009). Neumeier has also choreographed a number of ballets to the music of Gustav Mahler, including the biographical Purgatorio (2011), set to Deryck Cooke's reconstruction of Mahler's Tenth Symphony. In addition, Neumeier has choreographed Mahler's First (Lieb' und Leid und Welt und Traum, Ballet of the 20th Century, 1980), Third (1975), Fourth (Royal Ballet, 1977), Fifth (1989), Sixth (1984) and Ninth (In the Between, 1994) symphonies, as well as the Rückert-Lieder (1976), Des Knaben Wunderhorn (Soldier Songs, 1989) and Song of the Earth (Paris Opera Ballet, 2015).


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  • 1988 : Deutscher Tanzpreis
  • 1992 : Prix Benois de la Danse for best choreography (first recipient, for Windows on Mozart)
  • 2003 : Legion of Honour chevalier
  • 2006 : Honorary citizen of Hamburg
  • 2007 : Herbert von Karajan Music Prize
  • 2015 : Kyoto Prize
  • 2017 : Prix de Lausanne Life Achievement Award (first recipient)

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