Magazine article Dance Teacher

Madam's Legacy

Magazine article Dance Teacher

Madam's Legacy

Article excerpt

A London symposium celebrates Ninette de Valois' life.

"Without her, there would be no tradition of ballet in this country," reflected Kenneth MacMillan at Ninette de Valois' 90th birthday in 1988. This diminutive but feisty lady, who died in 2001 at 102, devoted her life to classical ballet as a dancer, teacher, director, choreographer, writer and founder of The Royal Ballet and The Royal Ballet School. But never one to take any credit for her life's work, she always stated firmly, "It takes more than one to make a ballet company."' This month, on the 10th anniversary of her death, a conference, "Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist," is being held in London at The Royal Ballet School to celebrate her life.

Born Edris Stannis in Ireland in 1898 to a British army captain and his wife, de Valois as a tiny child shyly performed her first dance, an Irish jig, in a workman's cottage on her family's estate. Later, despite having suffered from polio, she studied ballet seriously at the Lila Field Academy. The pupils, known as Wonder Children, performed publicly around the country, and this gave young Edris her earliest stage experience - her most-danced role was the Dying Swan. Her first London engagement was as principal dancer in a pantomime at the Lyceum Theatre, and she continued her training with Edouard Espinosa and Enrico Cecchetti.

By 1917, she had changed her name and became Ninette de Valois. In 1923 she joined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes on tour in Monte Carlo. Balanchine had started choreographing and she was in his second work for the company. She spent a successful three years there, reaching the position of soloist, and encountered other dancers trained in the Russian, Italian, French and Danish schools. Now, she reasoned, it was time to develop an English style. On her return to Britain, she advertised and opened the London Academy of Choreographic Art (later to become Sadler's Wells School of Ballet). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.