Three Visionary Women who Shaped the Story of British Ballet

(l to r) Lilian Baylis by Ethel Gabain, Marie Rambert, and Ninette de Valois by June Mendoza

Ballet in England in the early 20th Century had fallen on hard times, in the same way that it had in Paris; the heritage of the Romantic Ballet of the 19th Century was all but lost.  However a few ballerinas such as the Danish-born Dame Adeline Genée brought grace and charm to the stage of the Empire Theatre in London.  They made Britain their adopted home and from here could pass on the baton to a new generation with a vision of what was possible. 

Step forward three remarkable women: Marie Rambert, Ninette De Valois and Lilian Baylis.  Marie Rambert was Polish by birth, Ninette De Valois was born in Ireland to an Anglo/Irish family and Lilian Baylis was born in London but spent her early years in South Africa. All three had their lives touched by war and ill- health that shaped their future paths.  Their story and that of British Ballet is indeed set against the backdrop of wars and turbulent times.  They overcame limited resources to pursue their vision.  That all three succeeded is remarkable and through them were laid the foundations that grew to become the three national companies we have today: English National Ballet, the two Royal Ballet companies and Rambert Dance – a remarkable legacy.  Also at this time they played a pivotal role in developing the new foundations for the teaching of ballet that led to the training we have today through the Royal Academy of Dancing, the Cecchetti Society, the British Ballet Organisation and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

This is a truly inspirational story about remarkable people, living during a remarkable period in world history and struggling and succeeding in so many ways. There were many people who helped and supported Marie Rambert, Ninette de Valois and Lilian Baylis – it is a cast rich in characters that includes Frederick Ashton, John Maynard Keynes, Lydia Lopokova, Tamara Karsavina, Edouard Espinosa, Nikolai Legat, Enrico Cecchetti, Serafina Astafieva, Alicia Markova, Anton Dolin, Margot Fonteyn, Robert Helpmann, Beryl Grey, and many more.

Presentation: this presentation is illustrated by PowerPoint slides, along with archive film clips and DVDs shown to illustrate the topic.

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