- de Valois, Dame Ninette
orig. Edris Stannusborn June 6, 1898, Blessington, Co. Wicklow, Ire.died March 8, 2001, London, Eng.Irish-born British dancer, choreographer, and founder of the precursor to the Royal Ballet.She appeared in revues and pantomimes from 1914 before joining the Ballets Russes as a soloist in 1923. She founded the Academy of Choreographic Art in 1926 to teach movement to actors and cofounded the Camargo Society in 1930. In 1931 she founded and directed the Vic-Wells Ballet; this became the Sadler's Wells Ballet (1946–56) and later the Royal Ballet (1956), which she directed until 1963. She choreographed many ballets in the 1930s and '40s and remained active with the company until 1971.
* * *▪ 2002Edris StannusIrish-born British dancer and choreographer (b. June 6, 1898, Baltiboys, Blessington, County Wicklow, Ire.—d. March 8, 2001, London, Eng.), was the founder and first director of what became England's Royal Ballet and its renowned school. One of the most influential and highly revered individuals in the arts world in the 20th century—she was generally referred to simply as Madam—she guided the development of a British ballet style and tradition and led the company to international repute. De Valois was given her stage name by her mother, who saw early on that her daughter was talented. The family had moved to England when she was a child, and when she was a young teenager, she began her performing career, as one of Lila Field's Wonder Children, and studied dance with such noted teachers as Enrico Cecchetti. In 1923 de Valois began dancing with Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, but in 1926, having discovered that she was suffering the aftereffects of a childhood case of polio that had gone undiagnosed, she gave up performing and founded a school in London, the Academy of Choreographic Art. She also worked with Dublin's Abbey Theatre and Cambridge's Festival Theatre and began an association with Lilian Baylis at the Old Vic theatre. Baylis had another theatre, the Sadler's Wells, where in 1931 de Valois's dancers presented their first full-length program. This marked the launch of the Vic-Wells Ballet Company. With Frederick Ashton as chief choreographer and Constant Lambert as musical director, the company, later called the Sadler's Wells Ballet, grew in size and stature, and in 1946 it moved to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. It was granted a royal charter in 1956 and became the Royal Ballet. De Valois in the meantime had formed a second company, the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet, which later became one of England's top regional dance companies, the Birmingham Royal Ballet. She retired as the Royal Ballet's director in 1963 but continued leading the school until 1972. De Valois choreographed such works as La Création du monde (1931), Job (1931), The Haunted Ballroom (1934), The Rake's Progress (1935), and Checkmate (1937; with Arthur Bliss) and wrote three books: Invitation to the Ballet (1937), Come Dance with Me (1957), and Step by Step (1977). She was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1950, Dame of the British Empire in 1951, and a Companion of Honour in 1982, and in 1992 she was awarded the Order of Merit.
* * *▪ Irish danceroriginal name Edris Stannusborn June 6, 1898, Blessington, County Wicklow, Irelanddied March 8, 2001, London, EnglandIrish dancer, choreographer, and founder of the company that in October 1956 became the Royal Ballet. She was influential in establishing ballet in England.After study with Enrico Cecchetti and varied experience as a dancer in pantomime, revues, and opera, de Valois joined Sergey Diaghilev (Diaghilev, Sergey Pavlovich)'s Ballets Russes in 1923 as a soloist. At age 26, however, she quit performing after learning she was suffering from an undiagnosed case of childhood polio. In 1926 she founded her own school, the Academy of Choreographic Art, in London. She also produced dances for Lennox Robinson at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and for Terence Gray at the Festival Theatre in Cambridge.The success of her ballet Job for the Camargo Society in 1931, followed by her association with Lilian Baylis (Baylis, Lilian Mary), director of the Old Vic Theatre, led to the founding in 1931 of the Vic-Wells Ballet Company and the Sadler's Wells School. De Valois traced the history of the company, from its founding until it became the Royal Ballet in 1956, in Invitation to the Ballet (1937) and Come Dance with Me (1957). Besides directing the company that she created, she choreographed numerous ballets, including Checkmate (1937) and Don Quixote (1950). By drawing from English tradition for her choreographic material, as in The Rake's Progress (1935), inspired by William Hogarth's series of engravings, and The Prospect Before Us (1940), modeled on Thomas Rowlandson's caricature of the same name, she created a uniquely national ballet company. Her narrative ballets included prominent roles for male dancers, giving them artistic opportunities often neglected by other choreographers. In 1963 she retired as director of the Royal Ballet, although she remained head of the school until 1972. She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1951 and was named Companion of Honour in 1980.
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