Viviana Durante is acknowledged by critics and audiences worldwide to be one of the finest and most dramatic ballerinas of our time.
She was born in Rome and started ballet aged six at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Spotted by ballerina Galina Samsova, she came to London to join the Royal Ballet School at age ten. A year later she was the subject of a Thames Television documentary, I Really Want to Dance. After six years at the school she was offered a contract with The Royal Ballet, joining the company in 1984.
Viviana became an overnight sensation when she was famously plucked from the corps de ballet by director Anthony Dowell to replace an injured Odette in mid-performance of Swan Lake, aged 20 and never having been taught the role. At 21 she became The Royal Ballet’s youngest Principal Dancer.
She has danced most of the major roles in classical ballet, including Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Anastasia, Manon, Mayerling, A Month in the Country, My Brothers, My Sisters, The Prince of the Pagodas, Symphonic Variations, Different Drummers, La fille mal gardée, Rhapsody, Ondine, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Biches, Raymonda, La Bayadere, Cyrano de Bergerac, Diana and Actaeon, Thaïs pas de deux, Sylvia, Apollo, Ballet Imperial, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Who Cares?, Laurentia, La Ronde, The Red and the Black, Carmen, Coppelia, Duke Ellington Ballet, Birthday Offering, Scènes de ballet, Requiem, Les Patineurs, Elite Syncopations, Symphony in C, Gloria, Cabiria and Anna Karenina.
Noted for her versatility, she is particularly associated with the repertoire of Kenneth MacMillan, who tragically died backstage while she was dancing the role of Mary Vetsera in his Mayerling. She created roles in MacMillan’s The Judas Tree (which won a Laurence Olivier Award and earned Viviana an individual Olivier nomination) and Winter Dreams, and in numerous contemporary ballets by Bintley, McGregor, Page, Tuckett, Amodio and others. Among her coaches were Antoinette Sibley, Lynn Seymour and Margot Fonteyn.
In 1992 Viviana and her fellow principal Darcey Bussell were the subjects of a South Bank Show documentary, Two Royal Ballet Dancers. Viviana has received the London Evening Standard Award (the youngest ever artist to receive the award), the Time Out Award, the Premio Positano Italia (twice), Premio Internazionale “Gino Tani”, Premio Vignale danza, Premio Bucchi, Premio Apulia, and Prix de Lausanne. She has been named Dancer of the Year in the UK, Italy, Japan, and Chile. The Times described her as “in the people’s imagination, the heroine who dies for love.” The Independent called her an “unsurpassable” dance-actress and the Daily Mail dubbed her “the future of British dance.”
Parting ways with the Royal Ballet in 2001, she became Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre, Principal Guest Artist with Teatro alla Scala, and the leading ballerina of Japan’s K-Ballet. As a guest artist Viviana has danced in many of the world’s major theatres including New York, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Milan, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Verona, Naples, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Turin, Palermo, Frankfurt, Dresden, Copenhagen, Athens, Amsterdam, Miami, Toronto, Sydney, Seoul, Hong Kong, Santiago, Melbourne, Bristbane, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Hiroshima, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Saitama, Sendai, Tulsa, Dresden, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Oslo, Berlin, and Stuttgart.
Her partners have included Irek Mukhamedov, Anthony Dowell, Tetsuya Kumakawa, Vladimir Derevianko, Vladimir Malakhov, José Manuel Carreño, Angel Corella, Julio Bocca, Robert Tewsley, Massimiliano Guerra, and Carlos Acosta.
As an actress, she starred in the Italian film Ogni 27 Agosto and performed at the National Theatre and the Edinburgh Festival. She has featured in TV commercials for Toyota and in print campaigns. In addition to press and TV coverage of her work, she has appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan and Harpers & Queen and has been profiled in Vogue, Elle, Hello, and OK! She has modelled for photographic shoots for Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino and catwalk shows for Maison Gattinoni and Jasper Conran.
Available on DVD are her interpretations of Mayerling, Winter Dreams and The Sleeping Beauty with the Royal Ballet and Swan Lake, Giselle, Carmen and The Sleeping Beauty with K-Ballet.
As a choreographer, Viviana has created new ballet works at Dance Base, Edinburgh and the National Theatre Studio, London, and has collaborated with director Richard Eyre and Oscar-winning composer Dario Marianelli.
She has twice been a judge at the Prix de Lausanne, in 2011 and 2016. She has judged the Royal Ballet School’s Ursula Moreton Choreographic Competition (2011), ENB Emerging Dancer (2016), Hong Kong Ballet Group Stars Award (2016 and 2017), the Royal Ballet School’s Kenneth MacMillan Choreographic Competition (2017), and the 4th Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition (2017).
In September 2016 Viviana returned to The Royal Ballet to coach a revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s Anastasia. She continued to coach The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty for the Royal Ballet, and in September 2017 will coach The Judas Tree.
Viviana holds a Diploma of Dance Teaching from the Royal Ballet School and a Diploma in Dance Teaching and Learning from Trinity College London. She has taught and coached internationally and was a mentor for BBC Young Dancer (2017). She is a patron of the Hammond School and New English Ballet Theatre and a member of One Dance UK‘s development board.
Viviana is married to the British author Nigel Cliff. They have a son, Orlando, and are based in London.