Kenneth Macmillan was born in Dunfermline, Fife on 11 December 1929. In a poor, Scottish family, he grew up during the First World War, so never had a luxury childhood, but instead a strenuous and hard one. Due to his father not being able to work anymore, they fled their family farm, in the middle of the night, and went to live in Great Yarmouth. Unbeknown to Kenneth, or anyone for that matter, he was to use these experiences in life to become one of the most influential and leading ballet choreographers of his generation.
When he was 11, he won a scholarship to the local grammar school. The Second World War had begun and Great Yarmouth was repeatedly bombed, resulting in the school being evacuated to Retford in Nottinghamshire. It was here that he first discovered ballet. Dance wasn’t completely new to him as he had already learnt tap, Scottish country dancing and taken part in entertainments for soldiers at American air force bases. It was then when his tap teacher, Jean Thomas, encouraged him to try ballet. He soon discovered his passion and talent.
When his mother, Edith Macmillan, passed away in 1942 due to epilepsy, Kenneth was distraught. He never had a close relationship with his father, which now meant he felt so alone.
However, hope was just around the corner in the form of Phyllis Adams. She was a dance teacher, who taught him for free, and, in effect, became his surrogate mother. She soon realised that she had an extremely talented pupil and it was then that MacMillan created his first choreography on her daughter.
“A lasting memory of mine”, Phyllis Adams once said, was “watching Kenneth doing grand jetés across Yarmouth Market Place on his way home from school.”
When he was 15 he found an advertisement in The Dancing Times offering scholarships for boys at the Sadler's Wells Ballet School. He wrote to Ninette de Valois in the name of his father. The letter got him the audition. Here, he had to participate in a class with the Sadler’s Wells...