Viviana Durante (born 8 May 1967) is an Italian-born English prima ballerina who is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest and most dramatic ballerinas of her time. She was formerly a Principal Dancer of The Royal Ballet. She has performed internationally as a Guest Principal, since 2003 predominantly in Japan. As of 2010 she founded her own ballet group, called Viviana Durante Company.
Durante was born in Rome and started ballet at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma at six years old. Spotted by ballerina Galina Samsova, at age 10 she joined the Lower School of the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge in Richmond Park, London. A year later she was the subject of a Thames Television documentary entitled I really want to dance. In 1983 she graduated to the Upper School, but within a year, aged 17, she was invited to join the Royal Ballet Company. At 19 she was promoted to Soloist and at 21 she became Principal Dancer. At the time she was the Royal Ballet's youngest principal, and a year later, in 1990, she became the youngest ever artist to receive the Evening Standard Ballet Award.
Royal Ballet Company
At the Royal Ballet Durante danced all the main roles in ballets by Sir Kenneth MacMillan (Manon, Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling, Different Drummer, My Brother, My Sisters, Requiem, Elite Syncopations, Gloria, The Prince of the Pagodas and Anastasia, for which she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award), Sir Frederick Ashton (Cinderella, La Fille mal gard e, Rhapsody, Ondine, A Month in the Country, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Symphonic Variations, Les Patineurs, Birthday Offering, Sc nes de ballet, Tha s pas de deux) and from the classical repertory (Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere, Don Quixote, Les Biches, Raymonda, Diana and Actaeon, Sylvia pas de deux).
She created roles in MacMillan's The Judas Tree and Winter Dreams (based on Anton Chekhov s Three Sisters), in Wayne McGregor's Fleur de Peux, in Ashley Page's Pursuit, Piano, Bloodlines, ...now languorous, now wild... and Cheating, Lying, Stealing, in Will Tuckett's Present Histories, in David Bintley's Tombeaux and in Amedeo Amodio's Cabiria.
Among other ballets, she has also appeared in Bintley's Cyrano de Bergerac, in George Balanchine's Apollo, Ballet Imperial, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Who Cares? and Symphony in C, in Rudolf Nureyev's Laurentia, in Tetley's La Ronde, in Uwe Scholz's The Red and the Black, in Roland Petit's Coppelia, Carmen and Duke Ellington Ballet and in Andr Prokovsky's Anna Karenina.
In 1992 Durante and her fellow principal Darcey Bussell were the subjects of a South Bank Show documentary entitled Two Ballerinas at the Royal Ballet (UK: Two Royal Ballet Dancers) and, the following year, they were both invited by the New York City Ballet for the Balanchine Celebration at the New York State Theatre.
In 1995 she appeared in the title role of a ninety-minute version of Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty, which was telecast on Great Performances by PBS during the Christmas season. 
In 1998 Durante made a successful return to Rome, on the stage of the Teatro dell'Opera, as a Guest Artist in Prokovsky's production of the Tchaikovsky ballet.
In 1999 a disagreement between Durante and the Royal Ballet, beginning when she was reportedly dropped by a fellow dancer, blew up into a national media storm. After what the media called a 'dazzling 12-year career' as one of the British ballet's major stars, Durante left the company two years later, in 2001. 
Durante joined American Ballet Theatre as a Principal Dancer for the 1999 spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City. She has subsequently appeared as a Principal Guest Artist with many major international ballet companies including La Scala Milan, Tokyo Ballet and Semperoper Ballett Dresden. Since 2003 she has been the leading ballerina of Japan's K-Ballet, founded by fellow Royal Ballet alumnus Tetsuya Kumakawa.
She has taught masterclasses at the Royal Ballet School, the International Ballet Masterclasses in Prague, in Japan, and elsewhere. She is a patron of The Hammond School. In 2010 she was a coach and in 2011 a juror of the Prix de Lausanne. In 2010 a work choreographed by Durante premiered at Dance Base, Edinburgh. 
She has appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan and Harpers and Queen magazines and has been the subject of profiles in Vogue, Elle, Hello and many other publications. She has modelled for photographic shoots for Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino and for catwalk shows by Maison Gattinoni, and has appeared in commercials for Toyota. She has also appeared in several plays and films.
Critics have focussed on Durante's combination of immaculate technical skill, striking acting ability, instinctive musicality, and mercurial blend of Latin passion and British coolness.Her versatility is often noted and she has been admired in the classics and in ballets by Balanchine, Ashton, and, perhaps especially, MacMillan. Her Anastasia was widely hailed as a triumph, and her Manon (with Russian dancer Irek Mukhamedov as Des Grieux, in particular), has been labelled as the definitive interpretation. Her performances in Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, and other roles have also been widely influential, and she has been called 'the most dramatic of dancers.' The Independent has called her an 'unsurpassable actress,' the Daily Telegraph 'one of the world's greatest dancers,' and the Mail on Sunday 'the future of ballet in Britain.'
Durante is married to the British author and journalist Nigel Cliff and after a number of years living in Italy and Japan now lives in London. They have a son, Orlando.
Awards and honors (selected)
- Awarded Dancer of the Year in the UK, Japan, Italy, Chile.
- 1984 Prix de Lausanne
- 1989 Time Out Award
- 1989 Evening Standard Award
- 1991 Premio Positano
- 1997 Premio Internazionale "Gino Tani" per le Arti dello Spettacolo, Rome
- 1997 Laurence Olivier Award – nominated for Anastasia
- 2002 Premio Positano
- 2003 Premio Vignale danza
- 2006 Premio Bucchi
- 2007 Premio Apulia