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British Performance: A Brief History Of The Royal Ballet

British Performance: A Brief History Of The Royal Ballet

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Royal Opera House
Image courtesy of the Royal Opera House

International Dance Day has arrived! It's about time we took a little walk down memory lane of British Dance History, and what better place to start than reminiscing the making of the renowned Royal Ballet.

The Royal Ballet owes its present prestige to the aspiration of the entrepreneur, choreographer and dancer, Dame Ninette de Valois, who formed a small school and company, the Vic-Wells Ballet.

Dame Ninette
Dame Ninette. Image courtesy of The Royal Ballet School

In 1931, Valois persuaded Lilian Baylis to provide it with a space to be situated, specifically the North London theatre, Sadler's Wells.

The company remained at Sadler's Wells right up until 1939, when they spent the duration of the war touring near and far in Great Britain, and to a smaller degree, in Europe, dancing for the allied troops that were there.

Straight after this, in February 1946, the company transferred to the Royal Opera House, premiering a new full-length production of The Sleeping Beauty to bring life Covent Garden after being closed during the war. To mark it's 25th anniversary, in 1956, the name The Royal Ballet was issued by the Royal Charter.

Margot Fonteyn
Margot Fonteyn in The Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty, 1946. Image courtesy of Pinterest

The 15th May 2006 was the 75th anniversary of The Royal Ballet and, to mark this occasion, a recreation of The Sleeping Beauty was performed. In December 2006, following Chroma's award winning success, Wayne McGregor was elected The Royal Ballet's choreography resident.

In April 2007, the conductor Barry Wordsworth was re-elected as Music Director for the Company. Monica Mason was made a Dame Commander for her services to dance in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List which was formed on the 13th June 2008. In 2002 she became Director of The Royal Ballet and was succeeded by Kevin O’Hare in 2012.

Monica Mason
Monica Mason, present Director of The Royal Ballet. Image courtesy of The Royal Opera House

This year witnessed an additional two appointments to The Royal Ballet, from former students of The Royal Ballet School of whom are now acclaimed choreographers: Liam Scarlett as Artist in Residence and Christopher Wheeldon as Artistic Associate. From the beginning of the 2015/16 Season, Koen Kessels the conductor took the wheel as Music Director, whilst Wordsworth took the role as Principal Guest Conductor.

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