Trained at the Cuban National Ballet School, José Manuel Carreño first distinguished himself at international competitions before joining the English National Ballet in 1990. Three years later, he went on to become principal dancer with London’s Royal Ballet, moving to the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, in that same capacity, in 1995. The New York Times’ dance critic Anna Kisselgoff has described his performance in some of the most demanding ballets as “faultless” and “of royal perfection”, a level of excellence he maintained until 2011 when he left the company. In 2010, he took part in the world tour of Kings of the Dance, which showcased the top principal dancers of major ballet companies, including Québec’s Guillaume Côté. José Manuel Carreño subsequently become artistic director of ballet companies and festivals in the US and Mexico.
Since January 2020, he is professor at L'École supérieure de ballet du Québec.