The Dance Locker: Melissa Hamilton

In the latest of our occasional series, Royal Ballet First Artist Melissa Hamilton opens her dance locker, revealing a special moments and ballets from her career to date.

After joining the company in 2007, Melissa Hamilton has been a dancer with The Royal Ballet for 17 years, being promoted to First Artist in 2009, Soloist in 2010 and First Soloist in 2013. She has performed principal roles in numerous ballets including Manon, Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling, Raven Girl, Nutcracker and Onegin. Ballets in which roles have been created on her include Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works, The Dante Project and Untitled 2023; David Dawson’s The Human Season and Christopher Wheeldon’s Trespass.

Melissa Hamilton The Winter’s Tale
Photo Andrej Uspenski, ROH

She has also appeared as a guest principal with Semperoper Ballett. and with La Scala Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Japan (New National Theatre Tokyo) and Polish National Ballet. Melissa is presently appearing in The Royal Ballet’s revival of Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale, and it’s here that she begins.

The Winters Tale (The Royal Ballet, 2024)

I’m currently performing the role of Paulina in Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet, The Winters Tale. I see her as the connecting thread, facing all situations with mediating grace. There is a power in her unwavering, all-seeing presence, seeking to uphold justice and honour without the need for recognition.

Romeo and Juliet (The Royal Ballet, 2012)

Melissa Hamilton with Edward Watson
in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet in 2012
Photo ROH, Bill Cooper

My debut as Juliet in 2012 at The Royal Opera House was the first time I truly experienced the transcendent wonder of performing Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s work.

I was still a soloist with The Royal Ballet at the time. I had one scheduled performance in that run with Rupert Pennefather as Romeo, though in the week before the performance he had an unfortunate injury, so I actually premiered with Edward Watson.

I think there was altogether too much to contend with to really grasp Act 1 in that performance, but come Act 3 I felt myself fall deeply into this incredible role that Macmillan had created. My internal thoughts and dialogue became the conversations that I imagined Juliet to be having in that act, rather than prioritising  the steps of the choreography. This was something I had never experienced, hadn’t prepared for or expected.

I will always remember Monica Mason, my then director, walking me back to my dressing room after the performance with one arm around me not saying a word but somehow, I felt that she understood what I had just been through.

Roberto Bolle and Friends (Arena di Verona, 2023)

Whilst performing in the immense 14,000 capacity Arena di Verona last July, the city was hit by an epic thunderstorm.

The music began for Amedeo Amodio’s Carmen that I was performing with Roberto. As he progressed through his solo, the raindrops became heavier, and more frequent, and the wind started to pick up. I was in the wings awaiting my entrance to join him for the pas de deux and the rainfall just got more and more with the thunder and fork lightning coming into full force.

Melissa Hamilton and Roberto Bolle in Amedeo Amodio’s Carmen
Photo Andrej Uspenski, courtesy Melissa Hamilton

There was a split second to choose: to enter for the pas de deux or to decide ‘safety first’ and for the piece to be cut at the end of his solo. The overwhelming response from the audience, full of support and affection, remaining in their seats as the elements went full throttle was intoxicating. I stepped onto the stage and danced the pas de deux with Roberto in the torrential rain.

It gave me an unforgettable real life experience of a famous quote by Vivian Greene: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

Caravaggio pas de deux (performed worldwide with Roberto Bolle)

I first performed the pas de deux from Mauro Bigonzetti’s Caravaggio with Roberto in 2017 in one of his Roberto Bolle and Friends galas.

Since then we have gone on to perform it together all over the world. It’s an exquisite dance that seems to embody love, hope and compassion time after time. There is an essence in the piece that never seems to fade, no matter how many times, or where in the world that we perform it together. I get lost in its beauty.

Melissa Hamilton and Roberto Bolle
in Mauro Bigonzetti’s Caravaggio pas de deux
Photo En Pointe Productions, courtesy Melissa Hamilton

La Luna (Maurice Béjart)

I had watched clips of and seen imagery of Béjart’s solo, La Luna, over many years before really coming to know much about the piece, made famous by Sylvie Guillem, who performed it quite often in her career. It felt like a gift and an honour to be given the approval to perform this now rarely seen work, which I had never considered possible.

A solo full of juxtaposition, it sees serenity tied to melancholy, and vulnerability mixed with strength and determination in its most graceful form. It never feels like the same journey twice and it is a work that I crave to experience more and more in performance.

Melissa Hamilton in Maurice Béjart’s La Luna
Photo Bernie Ng

Melissa Hamilton’s International Ballet Stars Gala (March, 2024)

Staged at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in Singapore, this was the first international ballet gala that I produced under my new company, Hamilton Christou Productions, co-founded with my husband Michael Christou.

It brought together a cast of principal dancers from The Royal Ballet, Hamburg Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet performing signature company heritage works, much loved classical repertoire and exciting contemporary work. I was delighted to also be able to collaborate with Singapore Ballet, who performed Choo-San Goh’s ensemble work, Momentum, as well as two of their dancers being suitors to Yasmine Naghdi’s Aurora in The Rose Adagio.

Melissa Hamilton’s International Ballet Stars Gala in Singapore
Photo courtesy Melissa Hamilton

My first production at this scale, it was a lot to take on, to both be a producer and cast member. That said, I got the most incredible sense of joy and fulfilment from seeing a project that I had been working on with Michael for quite some time to be realised, and prove to be such a resounding success. There was such an uplifting feel to these performances bringing about so much enjoyment for all involved.

I am very excited to be currently working on our next production which is will be performed at the Grand Opera House, Belfast on October 26th and 27th.

Melissa Hamilton is performing with The Royal Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winters Tale at The Royal Opera House, London on May 15 and 22, 2024.
The May 22 performance will be relayed live to cinemas with encore screenings from May 26.

For more details and to book for Melissa’s Grand Ballet Gala in Belfast, visit