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Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Red Shoes

Having a break this afternnon and lazing in front of the TV. I missed the beginning hour of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - strong candidate for my most favourite film of all time and am nw settling in to watch The Red Shoes. Its been a while...

Ballet films arent perhaps the most well populated genre around - I can think of two the sublime The Red Shoes and Black Swan - which i have yet to say. I have to say that it never really appealed. Its got a lot to live up to following the technicolour gorgeousness that is The Red Shoes and its world gone by - Watching Covent garden when it was still a market...

Anyhoo another London trip courtesy of work and we decided to take a trek out to Barnes and then stroll back along the Thames to Fulham via Putney.

Its anothe month til the boat race and we did see the Cambridge Womens crew out on the water.

Little Em is taking ballet lessons although not possessed of a dancers physique and I cant say that its an artform that I have any huge interest in so this was an educational one for me.

Dame Ninette de Valois was born Edris Stannus in Co Wicklow Ireland daughter of a British officer and a glassmaker. She began taking ballet lessons when she was 10 and began her professional training when she was 13, she made her professional debut in pantomine.

At 21 she was appointed principal dancer of the Beecham Opera. She continued to study under eminent teachers and at 25 joined the Ballet Russes, the renowned company created by Diaghilev, she stayed for 3 years and was promoted to Soloist and created roles in some of the companys best known ballets - Les Biches and Le Train Bleu. She was also mentor to Markova.

She left the Ballet Russes in 1927 and founded the Academy of Choreographic Art, a dancing school for girls who would gain experience in the Old Vic with de Valois choreographing several short ballets for the theatre attempting to create a particularly English form of dance . Lilian Baylis, the owner of the Old Vic and later of the Sadlers Wells theatre employed her to stage full scale ballets and in 1931 de Valois moved her school to the Sadlers Wells and renamed it the Sadlers Wells Ballet School. the school and the ballet company associated with the theatre would later become the basis of the Royal Ballet, The Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School.

On its foundation the Vic Wells had only a half dozen female dancers with de Valois as both lead dancer and choreographer. Once Alicia Markova joined the company she retired from the stage to concentrate her energies on her choreography including severalof her own works Job (1931), The Rakes Progress (1935) and Checkmate (1937). The company also became on of the first western companies to dance the repertoire of the Imperial Russian Ballet. the reputation of the Vic-Wells Ballet was spreading and attracted some of the greats talents of the Ballet world - Margot Fonteyn, Moira Shearer (as seen in The Red Shoes) and Beryl Grey.

She formed the Turkish National Ballet in Ankara in 1947 and also spent tiem ensuring that her company was richly supplied with talent. She officially retired from ballet in 1963 although her fearsome presence loomed over the English world of Ballet for decades after.

She died at the age of 102 in 2001.

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