About

Peter Darrell was Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet from its inception until his death in December 1987.

He was born in Richmond, Surrey, and studied at Sadler’s Wells (now The Royal Ballet) School, becoming one of the original members of Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet in 1946.

"[Darrell] was alive to new trends in fashion and popular music ... The resulting ballets were as up-to-the-minute as any other art form or entertainment. If the 60s were swingin' – ballet would swing, too."

Mary Brennan

He discovered an interest in choreography as dance theatre, left to dance in France and Sweden, and returned in 1950 as a Soloist with London Festival Ballet, for whom he staged his first professional ballet Harlequinade (1950). After further experience in musicals, cabaret and television (including the choreography for a successful TV series Cool for Cats) he became co-director with Elizabeth West of Western Theatre Ballet on its formation in Bristol in 1957, and sole Director after her death in 1962. For Scottish Ballet’s debut programme, he choreographed The Prisoners, to Bartok’s music (it continues to be revived), and made the first ballet to Beatles music - Mods and Rockers in 1963.

Peter Darrell brought most of his dancers to Scotland in 1969 as the nucleus of the present Scottish Ballet and his later career developed in parallel with that of the company. As well as his own versions of the classic ballets of Giselle, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, his full-length ballets have included Sun into Darkness, Beauty and the Beast, Tales of Hoffmann, Mary Queen of Scots, Cinderella, Chéri and Carmen. In addition to his work at Scottish Ballet he produced numerous ballets abroad for companies in Australia, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, Japan and the USA. He was awarded a CBE in 1984.