8 March 1939 – 7 March 2023
Lynn Seymour died on 7 March 2023 at the age of 83. The Royal Ballet announced: “The Royal Ballet is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lynn Seymour on 7 March on the eve of her 84th birthday.”
The company also published a biography which is reproduced below.
Social media exploded with tributes from her many fans and friends. Gramilano has asked several of her colleagues for comments on this extraordinary dancer.
British dancer and choreographer Derek Deane said,
She was the most extraordinary ballerina of her generation in that she was almost feral at times on stage and then could turn the page and become the sweetest of dancers. Always unpredictable which made her so exciting to watch… unlike any other ballerina.
I danced Romeo to her last performances of her most famous role, Juliet. An overwhelming experience I will never forget. When people say “she was one of a kind”, she truly was… Unique.
Retired Royal Ballet dancer Genesia Rosato said,
Lynn was a wonderful artist and an inspiration to so many, she created some of the most exciting, powerful, and challenging roles to perform. She will be greatly missed.
Royal Ballet principal, Lauren Cuthbertson, writes,
Lynn leaves an extraordinary legacy. Her depth and commitment knew no limits. She created roles that allowed us the opportunity to push ourselves artistically and individually.
I met Lynn personally when I was 16. Listening to her talk about expression in dance changed my understanding in that very second. Lynn explained that expression in dance was about how you initiate and articulate each step so that every fibre of your body was invested. This made every class more meaningful, and I feel such fulfilment every time I perform a role she created. Forever grateful, thank you Lynn.
And her younger colleague, principal dancer Yasmine Naghdi, said,
I am deeply saddened by the news that Lynn Seymour has passed away. Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure of seeing her dance live, but I have seen many recordings of all her amazing performances.
I greatly admire her intense dramatic powers, her incredible artistry, and her beautiful lyrical style of dancing. Throughout my career at The Royal Ballet, she will always remain a great role model to me.
Jonathan Gray, former editor of Dancing Times magazine, said,
She was the greatest ballerina I ever saw. So utterly compelling, the imprint of her dancing remains in so many of the ballets she created. Above all, I remember her beautiful feet, and way she absolutely used the whole of her body to powerfully convey emotion and feeling. Intelligent and thrilling, no one can touch her.
Kevin O'Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, said in a statement,
Lynn was an extraordinary force of the ballet world, possessed of the most startling and spontaneous dramatic gifts that infused her every performance. The Royal Ballet repertory owes much to her magnetic stage presence, deeply affecting across her gentle and poignant characterisation in ballets like Ashton's The Two Pigeons and A Month to the Country, to the searing emotions of The Invitation, Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling and Anastasia by Kenneth MacMillan who established her as the leading dance-actress of her generation. Having been lucky enough as a young dancer to witness her artistry, and later to work with her, I will treasure special memories of her unique gifts and The Royal Ballet will be forever indebted to her.
Various companies have written tributes on social media. English National Ballet tweeted,
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lynn Seymour: she was one of the great dance actresses, and inspired so many. She guested with us during her illustrious career – and came out of retirement in 1989 to perform with us in John Cranko's Onegin in London.
The Bayerisches Staatsballett also wrote a tweet,
We are deeply saddened by the passing of Lynn Seymour, who passed away on 7 March. The former primaballerina was Director of the Ballet of Bayerische Staatsoper from 1978-1980. RIP, dear Lynn, you will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.
The Royal Ballet School published an article as well as writing,
We are profoundly saddened to learn that our alumna and former Principal dancer, Lynn Seymour, has died on the eve of her 84th birthday. She was known for her astonishing dramatic gifts and her unmatched ability to convey a role.
Some of the many personal tributes include Matthew Bourne:
Memories of the great Lynn Seymour who left us yesterday on the eve of her 84th Birthday. What an honour and inspiration it was to welcome this great star to New Adventures as The Queen in Swan Lake and her last created role as The Stepmother in Cinderella.
Absolutely heartbroken by the news of the passing of the Great Lynn Seymour. The original Juliette, for years she was my inspiration for all of Kenneth and many Ashton roles. A woman of true integrity that I had the fortune of working with.
Lynn Seymour, the greatest dance actress of our time, the most original ballerina in British history, has died. She and Margot Fonteyn were the two dancers who truly changed my life, both of them when I was twenty. But Seymour I was able to see in maybe thirty roles; her performance in “A Month in the Country” I saw twenty times.
And fellow Canadian Rebecca Caine:
Devastated to hear of the death of Lynn Seymour. Canadian dancer actor who inspired me more than any other performer.
Lynn Seymour by The Royal Ballet
Lynn Seymour was born in Wainwright, Alberta, and studied ballet in Vancouver, and at London's Sadler's Wells Ballet School. She joined Covent Garden Opera Ballet in 1956, The Royal Ballet Touring Company in 1957 and The Royal Ballet in 1958. She was promoted to Principal in 1959. In 1958, she created Adolescent in Kenneth MacMillan's The Burrow, and then went on to create roles for him including Fiancée in Le Baiser de la fée (1960) and Girl in The Invitation (1962). MacMillan also created Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) on her, and though Margot Fonteyn danced the role in the ballet's premiere, she went on to perform the role opposite Rudolf Nureyev as Romeo.
Other roles that Seymour created included Young Girl in Ashton's The Two Pigeons (1961), which marked the beginning of her much-praised partnership with fellow Royal Ballet Principal Christopher Gable. As a Royal Ballet Principal, Seymour danced roles including: Odette/Odile (Petipa and Ivanov's Swan Lake); the title role of Perrot, Coralli and Petipa's Giselle; and Ophelia (Helpmann's Hamlet). She was also in Ashton's Les Patineurs, MacMillan's Images of Love and Song of the Earth and Cranko's Card Game. She left The Royal Ballet in 1966 to become prima ballerina at Berlin Opera Ballet under Kenneth MacMillan's direction. She remained there until 1969 and danced in the first performance of MacMillan's Concerto and as Anna Anderson in MacMillan's one-act version of Anastasia (1967).
From 1971 to 1978, Seymour returned to The Royal Ballet as a guest artist, specializing in works by Ashton and MacMillan. She created the title role in MacMillan's three-act version of Anastasia (1971), Queen of the Cabaret in The Seven Deadly Sins (1973) and Mary Vetsera in Mayerling (1978) for MacMillan. Ashton created the role of Natalia Petrovna (A Month in the Country) and the solo Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan on her in 1976. She also appeared as Aurora (Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty), Manon (MacMillan's Manon), the Fairy Summer (Ashton's Cinderella), Terpischore (Balanchine's Apollo), and in Robbins's Dances at a Gathering and The Concert and MacMillan's Symphony, Rituals, The Four Seasons and Solitaire among other ballets. She was made a CBE in 1976. She went on to become Artistic Director of Munich State Ballet (1978–80) and to choreograph works for Rambert Dance Company, Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet and Galina Samsova in the 1970s and 80s. She came out of retirement in 1989 to dance Tatiana in Cranko's Onegin for English National Ballet and MacMillan's Anastasia in New York, and in the 1990s danced with Adventures in Motion Pictures in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake and as the Stepmother in Cinderella, a role she created. Her final administrative post was as Artistic Director of Greek National Ballet (2006–7). The Royal Ballet School's Lynn Seymour Award for Expressive Dance is named after her.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.