With an oeuvre comprising over 150 works, John Neumeier is one of the most important choreographers of our time. He has been ballet director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet since 1973, and ballet artistic director since 1996. The Hamburg Ballet School, which he founded in 1978, is one of the world's most renowned training centers.
In 2006, he established the John Neumeier Foundation with the aim of preserving and secure his collection on dance and ballet as well as his life's work. In 2011, he founded the Federal Youth Ballet. Born in 1939 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, he received his first ballet lessons in his hometown, later in Copenhagen and at the Royal Ballet School in London. He continued his studies at the Marquette University in Milwaukee, earning his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Theatre Studies. In 1963 John Cranko engaged him at the Stuttgart Ballet, where he later was promoted to soloist and created his first choreographies. In 1969 Ulrich Erfurth appointed him ballet director in Frankfurt am Main. August Everding brought him to Hamburg in 1973, where he turned the Hamburg Ballet into one of the world's leading ballet companies. As a choreographer, John Neumeier's essential artistic aim is to find contemporary forms for full-length ballet – whether dramatic or symphonic – and to place them in the context of the classical ballet tradition. He feels particularly committed to it in his new versions of historical story and fairy tale ballets, for example in his versions of The Nutcracker, Illusionen – wie Schwanensee, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Sylvia, created for the ballet of the Paris Opera. In his new creations, Neumeier seeks his own narrative structures – in the Arthurian legend and the numerous Shakespeare ballets as well as in the literary ballets The Lady of the Camellias, Endstation Sehnsucht or his adaptations of Ibsen's Peer Gynt, Homer's Odyssee, Chekhov's The Seagull, Andersen's The Little Mermaid, Mann's Death in Venice as well as Tatyana after Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. His choreographies for Gustav Mahler's symphonies received worldwide recognition. His key works on sacred music include Bach's Matthäus-Passion (1981) and Weihnachtsoratorium I–VI (2013), Mozart's Requiem (1991) as well as Händel's Messias (1999). John Neumeier's intensive examination of Vaslav Nijinsky inspired him to his ballets Nijinsky and Le Pavillon d‘Armide. He also devoted himself to musicals and opera directing. His most recent creations for the Hamburg Ballet include Ghost Light (2020), Hamlet 21 (2021), the Beethoven-Projekt II (2021) and Dona Nobis Pacem to Bach's Mass in B Minor (2023).
As a guest choreographer he has worked with the American Ballet Theatre, Royal Ballet London, Tokyo Ballet, Ballet of the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre, Ballet of the Paris Opera, Bavarian State Ballet, Semperoper Ballet, Ballet of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Stuttgart Ballet, Ballett am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg, Royal Danish Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballett, Finnish National Ballet, Ballet du XXe Siècle Brüssel, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève and San Francisco Ballet. His works are staged by the Australian Ballet, National Ballet of China, National Ballet of Canada and the Bolshoi Ballet, among others. Parts of his Ballet Workshop series and several of his ballets have been recorded for television or released on DVD and Blu-ray. His 1986 film version of the ballet The Lady of the Camellias was awarded a gold medal at the International TV Festival in New York.
John Neumeier received, among others, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Knight's Cross of the Dannebrog Order in Gold and the Medal of Honour »Ingenio et arti« ‒ awarded by Queen Margrethe II. ‒, Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts of the Marquette University in Milwaukee as well as professor of the Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
His further awards include the German Dance Prize, Prix Diaghilev, Prix Benois de la Danse, Medal of Honour of the City Tokyo, Carina Ari Gold Medal, Nijinsky Medal, Danza & Danza Magazine Award, Bavarian Theatre Prize, Golden Mask, Hans Christian Andersen Prize of Honour, Gustav Gründgens Prize, Herbert von Karajan Music Prize, Erich Fromm Prize and the Italian Music Prize »Una vita nella musica«. In 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Nijinsky Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2007 he received the German Critics' Prize, in 2008 the German Anniversary Dance Prize, in 2016 the Prix Benois de la Danse and in 2017 the »Lifetime Achievement Award« of the Prix de Lausanne. He is also an honorary member of the Saxon State Opera Dresden, a Knight of the Legion of Honour and a Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador for Germany. In 2007, he was made an honorary citizen of the city of Hamburg.
John Neumeier has been associated with the ballet at the Vienna State Opera since 1977, when he created Joseph's Legend, an authoritative work for the company that was also made into a film. Numerous other works followed, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Daphnis and Chloë, The Firebird or Le Sacre. Neumeier repeatedly choreographed the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concert. With The Lady of the Camellias, the Vienna State Ballet will add another of John Neumeier's masterpieces to its repertoire in the 2023/24 season.