A key figure in 20th-century British ballet, Ninette de Valois (1898-2001) was a dancer, teacher, choreographer and director of classical ballet. But perhaps most importantly she was the Founder of The Royal Ballet, The Birmingham Royal Ballet and The Royal Ballet School.
In 1923, de Valois joined the Ballets Russes, the renowned ballet company founded by the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev. She remained with the company for three years, being promoted to the rank of Soloist, and creating roles in some of the company’s most famous ballets
In 1931 de Valois established the Vic-Wells Ballet with a nucleus of six girls and herself as principal dancer. They were later called the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, after the theatres where the company danced.
When De Valois decided to produce Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Princess in full, it was the first time classical ballets had been a regular part of a company’s repertory outside Russia.
In 1947 de Valois was made CBE and in 1951 was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Today she is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of ballet and as the ‘godmother’ of English ballet.
Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet, in Douanes, England, 1932 via