After a dancing career that took her to the very top, Leanne Benjamin now uses her wealth of experience to nurture a new generation of dancers.
She was a principal of The Royal Ballet for 21 years, before retiring in 2013. She then began to coach for her former company and at major companies around the world including American Ballet Theatre and The Australian Ballet. She has also established the Leanne Benjamin Awards to support pre-professional Australian and New Zealand dancers wishing to study in the UK, and in 2023 launched the UK Young Classical Dancer Award.
Her expertise and knowledge make her much in demand as an international competition judge and motivational speaker.
Benjamin was born in Rockhampton, Australia before joining The Royal Ballet School at the age of 16. The following year, she won the Prix de Lausanne. Her exceptional talent was quickly recognised, and she joined Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet as soon as she left school. She was made principal dancer there in 1986, at the age of 22, before joining first English National Ballet and then the Deutsche Opera Ballet in Berlin, in both cases as principal dancer.
In Berlin, she met the renowned choreographer, Kenneth MacMillan; he invited her back to The Royal Ballet where she stayed until her retirement at the age of 49. By then, she had tackled virtually every leading role in the repertory, gaining particular acclaim for her performances of Swan Lake, Giselle, and Balanchine’s Jewels and in ballets by MacMillan such as Requiem, Mayerling and Manon, but also winning admirers in works by Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor. She was famous for her virtuosity but also for the drama of her interpretations of works, new and old.
Since leaving the stage, she has dedicated herself to communicating her understanding of the roles she performed to their new interpreters. She works regularly with the principals of The Royal Ballet, but has also coached at American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Queensland Ballet and Scottish Ballet. Her passion for coaching springs from her respect for the integrity of the choreography but also from her belief that each dancer must find their own way into a role.
She carries this belief in the encouragement of young dancers into her private teaching and into her involvement in schemes that directly support them in their careers. Since 2013, she has been a patron of the Tait Memorial Trust, she chairs the Ballet Board and runs the Leanne Benjamin scholarship awards.
Benjamin sits as Vice-Chair on the board of Governors of The Royal Ballet Companies, overseeing The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and The Royal Ballet School. She was awarded the OBE in 2005 and made a member of the order of Australia (AM) in 2015. Among the many accolades she received during her career are the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, and the Critics Circle Best Female Dancer award which she won on two occasions. She represented Australia at the Coronation of King Charles III.
As a motivational speaker, she has addressed audiences in Britain and Australia on themes that include specific advice for dancers but also stretch well beyond her own profession, offering thoughts on women in society and culture in general. In 2021, she published her autobiography, Built for Ballet.