The superstar of the Royal Ballet rebuilt a life after retiring in 2013. She studied architectural design, started coaching and became Vice-Chair of the Governors of the Royal Ballet Companies. Here Leanne Benjamin talks to Alessandro Bizzotto about it all: her toughest coaches, her reputation as a strong personality, the autobiography she decided to write, and why for her, it was always only ever about the performance. A long and entertaining chat with one of the greatest ballerinas ever.
I ordered Leanne Benjamin’s autobiography via Amazon not long ago. It took a couple of days to arrive and a very few weeks to read it, even though I could have read it even more quickly. It was a thrill to find out so many things about an artist I have always loved – reading Leanne Benjamin: Built for Ballet brought back so many memories for me.
I can’t help telling her so, when I find myself chatting with her over FaceTime almost nine years after her last performance as a Principal of the Royal Ballet, when she danced Mary Vetsera in ‘Mayerling’ to a sold-out Royal Opera House.
I can’t help reminding her of how much I loved her Manon – seeing her in the role was a shock which changed my perception of the ballet, particularly in Act Three, when the hallucinated way in which she stared at the gaoler’s dead body made me feel as if I was seeing ‘Manon’ for the first time.
I can’t help smiling when I tell her about the first time I asked her to sign a picture, after a mixed bill ended with a glorious performance of ‘Requiem’.
And of course, I can’t help mentioning her Juliet, my fondest memory of watching a ballet performance at Covent Garden. I still remember the adjectives I used to review her performance – unrivalled, unforgettable. As Juliet, Leanne Benjamin was so breath-taking, so beautifully perfect…