Sixty years ago, in March 1963, the ‘mother of dance’ Dame Ninette de Valois retired. Before her work founding and establishing the Royal Ballet, and its school in Richmond Park, there was a fragmented dance scene in the UK. She was instrumental in developing other dance companies in Sadlers’ Wells/ Birmingham, Bristol, Ireland and Turkey. Her professionalism and dedication to developing dance nationally helped to create a dance culture boasting more than 50,000 dancers, dance teachers, dance administrators, academics, critics, writers and students today.
She combined the modernism of Diaghilev with the classical tradition of Russian ballet and worked with British composers to imbue her choreography with a British essence. To celebrate her 100th birthday The Royal Ballet performed a season at the Barbican Theatre, including The Rake’s Progress (1935) and extracts from seven of her other ballets.
She married a local GP Arthur Connell in 1935 and the couple settled in Barnes, living at 14 the Terrace in a pretty house with a view of the river.
Fond of going to the local pub, she would meet friends and colleagues there. She lived to be 102 and her influence on the dance profession can still be felt today.