Royal Ballet Principal Dancer Watson retires after 27 years

Published: 28 October 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

The Winter's Tale: Edward Watson as Leontes Credit: Johan Persson
Metamorphosis: Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa Credit: Tristram Kenton
Mayerling: Edward Watson as Prince Rudolph Credit: Alice Pennefather

Royal Ballet Principal Dancer Edward Watson will make his final performance with the company on Saturday 30 October in Wayne McGregor’s new work, The Dante Project.

With a career spanning over 27 years, Watson's work with The Royal Ballet has included major roles in productions by Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan, and he created numerous new ballets and forged creative partnerships with acclaimed international choreographers including Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon and Arthur Pita. At the start of the 2020/21 season, Watson joined the roster of Royal Ballet coaches as Répétiteur, coaching dancers for various productions.

Director of The Royal Ballet Kevin O’Hare said, "Edward’s artistic sensibility and extraordinary physicality have made him one of the most distinctive performers of his generation, and indeed across The Royal Ballet’s history, ushering in a new era of possibility for men in ballet. His expressive versatility and openness for collaboration have proved an inspiration both for leading creatives such as our Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor, and also for the other dancers in the Company.

"He follows in the footsteps of the great dance-actors of The Royal Ballet, giving memorable performances of dramatic intensity in such roles as Kenneth MacMillan’s Crown Prince Rudolf in Mayerling and Christopher Wheeldon’s King Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, contrasted with the poetic grace of his Palemon in Frederick Ashton’s Ondine and his Olivier Award-winning performance in Arthur Pita’s Metamorphosis. We look forward celebrating his career at his final performance on 30 October, and I am delighted that he now brings his artistry to bear when leading the next generation of performers."

Watson was born in Bromley, South London and joined The Royal Ballet in 1994. His many role creations for McGregor included parts in Symbiont(s), Qualia, Chroma, Infra, Limen Carbon Life, Raven Girl, Tetractys, Woolf Works, Obsidian Tear, Multiverse and The Dante Project and, for Wheeldon, Lewis Carroll / The White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Leontes (The Winter’s Tale) and John Singer Sargent (Strapless). Watson has worked with numerous other choreographers, including Siobhan Davies, David Dawson, Javier De Frutos, Alastair Marriott, Cathy Marston, Ashley Page and Arthur Pita.

His awards include the 2012 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, the 2015 Benois de la danse and Critics’ Circle Awards in 2001 and 2008. He was awarded an MBE in 2015.