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Ninette de Valois

Artistic Director

Biography

Ninette de Valois in action.
Ninette de Valois rehearsing her ballet Job in 1948 © ROH/Roger Wood, 1948

Dancer, teacher, choreographer and artistic director Ninette de Valois (1898–2001) founded The Royal Ballet. The importance of her role in creating not only a world-class national company and school but a unique national style of dance and a British audience for ballet cannot be overstated.

De Valois was born Edris Stannus in Baltiboys, County Wicklow. She first studied at the Lila Field Academy for Children. In her early career De Valois danced in revues and music-halls around London while studying with Edouard Espinosa, Enrico Cecchetti and Nicolas Legat, and running her own school in Eastbourne. She was a member of Ballets Russes 1923–6. In 1926 she made an agreement with Lilian Baylis at the Old Vic to create dances in support of the theatre, which led in 1931 to the reopening of Sadler's Wells and the founding of Sadler's Wells Ballet, later The Royal Ballet. She employed Nikolay Sergeyev 1932–9 to stage classical Mariinsky ballets on the Company, and in 1935 employed Frederick Ashton as resident choreographer. Her company was made resident at the Royal Opera House in 1946, reopening the building with The Sleeping Beauty. She stood down as Director in 1963 to direct The Royal Ballet School, retiring in 1970.

De Valois was made a CBE in 1947, DBE in 1951, awarded the Companion of Honour in 1983 and the Order of Merit in 1992, alongside many other honours.

Videos

News and features

Royal Academy of Dance to present The Royal Ballet with its highest honour

Royal Academy of Dance to present The Royal Ballet with its highest honour

15 May 2014

Company awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, first conferred on Ninette de Valois.

Ballet Essentials: The Sleeping Beauty

Ballet Essentials: The Sleeping Beauty

19 February 2014

A guide to The Royal Ballet's quintessential fairytale ballet.

The personal inspiration behind Kenneth MacMillan's Gloria

The personal inspiration behind Kenneth MacMillan's Gloria

29 January 2014

How the wartime experiences of MacMillan's father influenced his haunting tribute to the fallen.

Former dancer at Sadler's Wells Ballet, Pauline Clayden, turns 90

Former dancer at Sadler's Wells Ballet, Pauline Clayden, turns 90

18 October 2012

Take a look back at a remarkable career and into the former dancer's scrapbook.

Inside the Royal Opera House Costume Department

Inside the Royal Opera House Costume Department

7 August 2012

From costume bibles to snowflake skirts, we take a peek at what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Lecture on Ninette de Valois

Lecture on Ninette de Valois

30 May 2012

Founder of The Royal Ballet profiled in a talk tonight in London.

Photos