Ballet was my first love. I can remember dragging my mother along Princes Street in Edinburgh worried in case I was late for class; I was three or four years’ old.
After the usual progression of trials and tribulations including the declaration of War I managed to win a scholarship to Sadlers Wells School in the 1940s. Although the theatre was closed due to bomb damage the rehearsal and changing rooms were still in operation. You entered the stage door and clambered up the sparkling granite stairs to the dressing rooms entering a new and magical world.
There we received a complete training of classical ballet. All the steps of every routine in the ballets were covered at dance class. Exercise at the barre was taken at twice the pace I was used to and with a great swing by Mrs Hughes on the piano.
We owe a great deal to Ninette de Valois who started it all with the support of Lilian Baylis (Old Vic) and the Russian ballet master Sergieff who had smuggled all the classical data, every notation etc out of Russia. The drama and the dance combined in the theatre known as Vic-Wells and prospered. The ballets were performed at The New Theatre in St Martin’s Lane (now known as The Noel Coward Theatre) which was kept open during the War providing I think a valuable escape for the people of London.
More recently a very important development of a new school and company is thriving in Birmingham - the Birmingham Royal Ballet. This has nurtured the same style and spirit as Sadlers Wells and last Friday our daughter Joanna took me to a glorious performance of “Coppélia” at the London Coliseum on the company’s guest visit to the West End. We had a superb evening and I rejoice in their success.
Every step of every dance carefully noted has remained the same over the years and was danced with verve and great joy.
Coppélia is definitely my favourite, not the least because I took part as a student. I was one of the dolls, the astronomer doll which has since disappeared, but the music still enchants and the company’s performance was superb. Congratulations to them all – long may they continue to shine!