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The Royal Ballet School appoints Iain Mackay as new Artistic Director

Iain Mackay.
Iain Mackay.

The Royal Ballet School has appointed Iain Mackay as its next Artistic Director following an extensive international search.

This follows the news in January this year that Christopher Powney would step down at the end of the academic year after a decade in the post.

Educated at The Royal Ballet School’s Upper School, on graduating, Mackay joined Birmingham Royal Ballet, under the direction of Sir David Bintley, where he rose rapidly through the ranks and was promoted to Principal in 2003. He danced with Corella Ballet Spain from 2007 to 2009, before returning to Birmingham Royal Ballet to dance until his retirement in 2017.

Throughout his career, Mackay performed leading roles in a vast range of company repertoire, from heritage classical to modern work. He worked with an extensive list of leading international choreographers, including David Bintley, Christopher Wheeldon, Kim Brandstrup, Angel Corella, Jessica Lang, Natalia Makarova, Nahid Siddiqui and Stanton Welch. He also performed as an international guest artist throughout his career. Alongside this, Mackay taught company class, led rehearsals and individually coached dancers for performance.

After retiring from performing, Mackay was Director of the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars, working to expand the charity’s work and steering them through COVID-19. He was appointed The Royal Ballet School’s International Artistic Manager in November 2021, responsible for all international courses and auditions, building partnerships and developing the School’s reach as a globally renowned centre of excellence. He served as a Governor of The Royal Ballet Companies from 2019-2021.

He has also founded two initiatives demonstrating his commitment to widening access to dance for all: Open Door Dance, a pop-up dance company that performed at locations around Birmingham, and Imovers Dance Club, an inclusive community dance club for young people.

Mackay said of his appointment, “I’m thrilled and honoured to be returning to The Royal Ballet School, this time as Artistic Director. It’s where my appreciation for the English style of classical ballet was nurtured and where I gained the skills, knowledge and mindset that launched my almost 20-year career as a dancer. I have great appreciation and admiration for Christopher Powney and everything he has achieved over a remarkable decade at the helm. He has consistently taken an innovative approach, pushed the boundaries and placed student well-being at the forefront, while leading the School through some of the most unprecedented challenges of our time – a very tough act to follow.”

He added, “I’m particularly excited to join the School at such a historic moment, with the centenary approaching in 2026. My vision is that the School continues to be an environment where students can thrive, artistically, physically and mentally, emerging prepared to lead the global dance community as artists, displaying excellence and resilience. I’m committed to upholding and enhancing The Royal Ballet School’s rich heritage, while looking firmly to the future. I look forward to working with the dedicated, inspiring students of the School alongside the highly talented and committed staff.”

The School’s Interim Chairman, Anna Birkett, said, “We’re delighted to have appointed Iain as The Royal Ballet School’s next Artistic Director. He has many qualities that make him a perfect fit for the role, not least his vast knowledge and experience of The Royal Ballet School, Royal Ballet Companies and the English style gained through his education at the School and his stellar career with Birmingham Royal Ballet. He also shares the School’s commitment to widening access to dance and continually working to raise training standards for our sector, demonstrated through his work post-performance career. I’m thrilled to welcome him to the School for the new academic year in September.”

The Royal Ballet School previously announced that it had appointed Patrick Harrison as its first full-time CEO. Harrison will join the School later this year.

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