Born in Zimbabwe, Desmond trained there before he began his professional career with London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), becoming principal dancer at age 21, and later working with many international companies including Royal New Zealand Ballet, The Royal Ballet and Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet.
He performed in Britain during the 1960s, and joined the Royal Ballet Companies in 1970, dancing the principal role in all the major classical repertoire and partnering many of the world‘s leading ballerinas including Margot Fonteyn, Antoinette Sibley, Merle Park, Natalia Makarova, Monica Mason (former Director of The Royal Ballet), Margaret Barbieri and Marion Tait (now Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Ballet Mistress). He is particularly noted for his interpretation of the Balanchine repertory, and he has created numerous roles for choreographers including Bintley, Carter, Corder, MacMillan, Seymour and Tetley.
Desmond has taught classical ballet to many international companies since 1985, becoming instrumental in the development of numerous dancers, particularly at Birmingham Royal Ballet, where he was appointed Assistant Director in 1990.
As Assistant Director, he was a member of Birmingham Royal Ballet‘s Senior Management Team and provided a communication and management link between the ballet staff and dancers, and the administration departments. He line-managed the Company’s Ballet Staff, was responsible for the welfare of the dancers in liaison with the Jerwood Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries, and taught certain repertory to the Company, notably that of Balanchine and MacMillan.
Desmond was awarded an OBE in the 2005 New Year‘s Honours list, and was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters by Leicester University and the University of Birmingham in 2007. He directed BRB’s artistic team for Ballet Changed My Life - Ballet Hoo!, the education project documented on Channel 4 during autumn 2006, for which he was presented with a special award at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards in 2008. He is married to former dancer Denise le Comte and has two children and four grandchildren.