His final performances will be in Fokine's Firebird on February 6 and 23; he has withdrawn from all scheduled performances before that date.
He will stay with the company as a r_p_titeur, or rehearsal director.
Cope has spent his whole dance career with the Royal Ballet (he spent two years away from the company, pursuing a career in business). He graduated from the company's school, and joined the company in 1982 at age 19. He became a principal dancer in 1987.
In addition to roles in the company's whole classic repertory, he created lead roles in ballets by David Bintley, Ashley Page, William Tuckett, Matthew Hart, Chrisotpher Wheeldon, Cathy Marston, and Matthew Hart.
Over the course of his performance career, he partnered many of the company's great ballerinas, notably Sylvie Guillem and Darcy Bussell.
Cope said, in a statement released by the company, "I consider myself fortunate to have enjoyed such a long dancing career. I feel privileged to have worked in an era that included both Ashton and MacMillan. I have many fond memories to take with me, especially those of partnering many of the world's finest ballerinas. In particular, my long partnership with Sylvie Guillem and the bond we formed on the stage is something I will always cherish."