independent

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Abbey hosts tribute to Dame Ninette de Valois

BALLET LEGEND WAS BORN IN BLESSINGTON

Irish choreographer, dancer and teacher Dame Ninette de Valois (1898 - 2001).
Irish choreographer, dancer and teacher Dame Ninette de Valois (1898 - 2001).

MYLES BUCHANAN

THE FIRST-EVER symposium celebrating the Blessington-born woman regarded as the figurehead of world ballet took place on Sunday in the Abbey Theatre.

Dame Ninette de Valois founded both the Abbey Theatre School of Ballet and the Royal Ballet of Britain, and later the Turkish State Ballet.

The Irish Ballet Forum presented event featured leading figures from the world of dance, such as Kevin O'Hare, the director of the Royal Ballet. Also in attendance was designer Louis Verity, the great-niece of De Valois.

The Dame was born in Blessington in 1898 and spent her childhood in Baltyboys House. Her love of dance first became evident through her enjoyment in performing traditional Irish jigs. At the age of 10 she began ballet lessons.

She went on to dance professionally as a soloist with Diaghilev's celebrated Ballets Russes. She established the Royal Ballet, one of the world's most recognisable dance companies, in 1931. She founded the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1946. At the invitation of WB Yeats she established the Abbey Theatre School of Ballet.

Dame de Valois, often fondly known as 'Madam', lived until she was 102 and continued to make public appearances right up to her death in 2001.

The Abbey's day-long celebration also included the first Irish coaching session with Dame Monica Mason, CBE, the retired director of the Royal Ballet.

There was also a premier screening of a film The King of the Great Clock Tower and a documentary based on the de Valois biography 'Come Dance with Me.'

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