Peter Wright made his debut as a professional dancer with the Ballets Jooss during World War II and in the 1950s worked with several dance companies, including the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet, for which he created his first ballet, A Blue Rose, in 1957. In 1959 he was appointed Ballet Master to the Sadler's Wells Opera and teacher at the Royal Ballet School.
In 1961 he went to Stuttgart as teacher and ballet-master to the company being formed by John Cranko. There he choreographed several ballets, including The Mirror Walkers, Namouna, Designs for Dancers and Quintet, and mounted his first production of Giselle, which he has subsequently produced for The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and many other international companies. His other interpretations of the classics include The Sleeping Beauty, Coppélia, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker and these productions now feature regularly in opera houses throughout the world. During the 1960s he also established himself as a successful director of television ballets and choreographed various West End musicals and revues.
In 1969 he returned to The Royal Ballet as Associate to the Directors and then became Associate Director. In 1977 he was appointed Director of Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, taking the Company to Birmingham in 1990, when it became Birmingham Royal Ballet. On his retirement in July 1995 he was made Director Laureate of Birmingham Royal Ballet. He received the Evening Standard Award for Ballet in 1981, and in 1985 was made a CBE. In 1990 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from London University, the University of Birmingham conferred on him the title of Special Professor of Performance Studies and he was presented with the Elizabeth II Coronation Award from the Royal Academy of Dancing. In 1991 he was made a Fellow of the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music. He also won the 1991 Digital Premier Award, which he used to commission a new ballet for the Company. He was awarded a knighthood in the 1993 Queen's birthday honours list, in 1994 an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Birmingham and the Critics' Circle Award 1995 for Distinguished Services to the Arts. He is president of the Benesh Institute (Dance Notation) and the Friends of Sadler's Wells Theatre and a vice president of The Royal Academy of Dancing and the Myasthenia Gravis Association. He is also a governor of the Royal Ballet School.
Five pieces of choreography inspired by birds
We've previously collected together lists of animals that appear repeatedly in our ballets, including horses and mice. However none so far have enjoyed such iconic choreography as our current subject: birds! Here are just five of our feathered favourites, each with an accompanying video clip: