We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Elaine McDonald OBE. Here, we reflect on Elaine's extraordinary career with Scottish Ballet, and we dedicate our performances of Cinderella to her memory.

‘“Elaine McDonald was a rare talent, a truly creative artist and a leading ballerina of her generation. Scotland’s first ballerina dedicated her entire performing life to Scottish Ballet and in turn, we dedicate our performances of Cinderella to her memory.”’

Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet CEO / Artistic Director

Born in Yorkshire in 1943, Elaine McDonald trained at the Royal Ballet School before joining Walter Gore’s London Ballet Company. From there she moved to Western Theatre Ballet, staying with the company when it moved to Glasgow to provide Scotland with its own national ballet company in 1969. 

Elaine was a great inspiration to our founder Peter Darrell, who had also been artistic director and principal choreographer of Western Theatre Ballet. Their artistic relationship was central to the development of modern British ballet. 

‘“…In Elaine McDonald, [Peter Darrell] has found an ideal interpreter of astonishing dramatic power – her name breathed among cognoscenti these days in the same breath as Ulanova, Fonteyn, Samsova, and Seymour. Her dancing radiates authority in both contemporary and classic roles (a great Giselle), her crisp technique and ethereal lightness at the service of an ability to convey subtly charged emotion and sexuality.”’

Geoffrey Baskerville - Harper’s Edinburgh Guide (Noel Collins)

Known for her extraordinary artistic range, Elaine McDonald created the principal roles in many of Peter Darrell's major new works, including Sun into Darkness, Tales of Hoffman, Mary Queen of Scots and Cinderella. She was also highly acclaimed in several of Darrell’s new productions of great romantic and classical ballets such as Giselle and Swan Lake. She performed with Scottish Ballet and as a guest artist around the world, one highlight of which was dancing opposite Rudolf Nureyev in La Sylphide in Madrid and then at the London Coliseum.

Elaine McDonald As Cinderella in Peter Darrell's Cinderella. Photo By William Cooper

‘"Elaine McDonald - without a doubt one of Britain's finest ballerinas - brings the character to life: gentle, graceful and radian. Delicious, the way she tentatively flutters her butterfly wings when she first encounters the Prince."’

David Dougill - The Sunday Times
Elaine McDonald As Teresina in Bournonville's Napoli. Photo By William Cooper

‘"Teresina is portrayed by Elaine McDonald, whose ethereal grace, brilliant technique and dramatic powers, make her one of the greatest dancers of our day."’

Geoffrey Baskerville - The Scotsman
Elaine McDonald in Peter Darrell's Such Sweet Thunder. Photo By William Cooper

‘"...Elaine McDonald managed to look both funny and sinister as Lady Macbeth interpreted by Rita Hayworth..."’

Fernau Hall - The Daily Telegraph
Elaine McDonald with Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother during her 1979 visit to open the 261 headquarters and attend a Royal Gala performance of Tales of Hoffman.

Elaine McDonald stepped into the role of artistic director of Scottish Ballet for a short time following Peter Darrell's death in 1987. She was awarded an OBE in 1983.

Her incredible contributions to Scottish Ballet endure and our thoughts are with Elaine's family and friends at this time. There will be a public memorial service at the Actors Church in Covent Garden in January.

We dedicate our performances of Cinderella this winter to Elaine's memory.

Cover photo: Elaine McDonald in Peter Darrell's Five Ruchert Songs. Photo by Alan Crumlish.

For more information we recommend ‘Elaine McDonald’ by John S Dixon (Arno, 1982), which celebrates her career with Scottish Ballet.