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What are your first memories of ballet?

Share your memories of first experiences of classical dance from The Royal Ballet and beyond.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

11 May 2016 at 1.45pm | 36 Comments

Whether it's breathing in the magic of the theatre, marvelling at the artistry of the performers, or simply enjoying the thrill of a well-deserved night out, there is undeniably something unforgettable about an evening spent at the ballet.

We encouraged our Twitter followers to indulge in a moment of nostalgia and tell us about their first experiences of the ballet — be it live on the Covent Garden stage, or further afield — and we were not disappointed:








What was your first experience of ballet?
Let us know via the comments below.

ROH Live Cinema relays are a great way to experience ballet for the first time. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

This article has 36 comments

  1. Nina battleday responded on 11 May 2016 at 2:11pm Reply

    Makes me feel old, but first ballet was Festival Ballet in 1951 , and at about the same time Sadlers Wells ballet doing Harlequin in April and Pineapple Poll. First ballet at the Opera House was Fonteyn and Somes,in Cinderella, with the ugly sisters being played by women. I think one was played by Moyra Fraser who was a well known review artist at the time.

  2. Stephen A Hutchings responded on 11 May 2016 at 5:18pm Reply

    My first ballet was La Fille mal Gardee at the Royal Opera House on 30 March 1974 with Doreen Wells and David Wall and it was brilliant. I have now been to 64 live performances at both the ROH and Birmingham Hippodrome. Cannot wait for the next one.

  3. Kate responded on 11 May 2016 at 5:19pm Reply

    The Nutcracker in Covent Garden. It was December 1984, I'd just turned 6 and parents had brought me down from the north to London for a weekend. The production was magical and I longed to be Clara. And London was paved with gold that night - I still remember the red of the foyer carpet where I found a pound coin!

  4. marilyn weston responded on 11 May 2016 at 5:53pm Reply

    I saw nadia nerina dance at covent garden
    she was amazing,after that I ollowed David Wall and his wonderful career,now I love the Russians and Nunez
    just love the ballet

  5. 1st #ballet experience: #TheRedShoes (aged 5). 1st live ballet: Sadler's Wells 'Coppelia' c. 1954. Sold on ballet ever since!

  6. Sharon Keogh responded on 11 May 2016 at 7:49pm Reply

    Being given an old ballet book and falling in love with photo's of Svetlana Beriosova developed my interest. SWRB was my first experience of live ballet. Utterly amazing, beautiful and magical!

  7. Christopher Naylor responded on 11 May 2016 at 10:11pm Reply

    First ballet was Fille Mal Gardee with most of the original cast at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1964. ROH was closed for refurbishment. Then saw Nureyev in Petrushka. Since that time have seen so much wonderful ballet and wonderful dancers.

  8. Bridie Macmahon responded on 11 May 2016 at 10:59pm Reply

    A triple bill of Enigma Variations/Symphonic Variations/Les Noces, on 25 October 1977. I didn't realise at the time quite how lucky I was for that to be my first performance - what an amazing bill. And Adrian Boult was conducting and Ashton had just been awarded the OM, so there was long applause and many curtain calls. I went with my mother and as a special treat my father had bought us tickets in the stalls circle so we were really near the stage and the orchestra pit. A night never to be forgotten.

  9. Lucy responded on 12 May 2016 at 12:16pm Reply

    Having never been taken to any ballet as a child - I could have sailed through life blissfully unaware of what has become one of my greatest passions.

    I signed up to the ROH student standby scheme as a student because a friend wanted me to go to an opera with her. We never managed to get to that opera but I did start receiving emails from the ROH. When a same-day offer for Raven Girl/Symphony in C came up - I booked it on a whim, fully expecting ballet to not be my 'thing'.

    I was completely bowled over by what I experienced - it was actually something that was really magical for me and I just couldn't get over the beauty of the art form. I started booking tickets for lots more things and now come to practically everything I can - but I still get that sense of excitement of awe when I see a new production.

  10. Kate responded on 12 May 2016 at 1:37pm Reply

    I was completely entranced by the film The Red Shoes. It fascinated me and I saw it loads of times. I was already going to ballet class as a 7or 8 year old and fondly imagined I would be the next Margot Fonteyn. I did end up a professional dancer - not in the exalted world of ballet, sadly (never good enough although I trained for years!) but a mere hoofer at the Talk of the Town. A very long time ago - it was the 60's and it was fun, but my first love will always be ballet and I come to Covent Garden as much as I possibly can. It's always a thrill to see beautiful classical dancing. Thank you to all those wonderful dancers who have given me so much pleasure. I know just how hard it is and how much dedication it takes.

  11. Vicky Hurst responded on 12 May 2016 at 2:10pm Reply

    5 August 1972, Sleeping Beauty with Ann Jenner and Desmond Kelly

  12. Margaret responded on 12 May 2016 at 2:30pm Reply

    My first ballet experience was The Sleeping Princess with International Ballet in Coventry in 1950 which gave me a lifelong love of ballet. There was also a Festival of ballet there in 1961 which included many famous dancers, including Dolin, Krassovska and Fracci. My first ballet with the Royal Ballet was Swan Laket, this was in Leicester at the De Montford Hall in December 1962. It was danced by Doreen Wells and Christopher Gable. After University I moved to London and had the pleasure of attending the Royal Opera House, my first ballet there was Giselle with Beriosova and Macleary. The first of many wonderful visits.

  13. Helen responded on 12 May 2016 at 2:51pm Reply

    My mum took me to see Coppélia by SWRB when I was 5. It was amazing and I've been hooked ever since .

  14. Jae responded on 12 May 2016 at 3:24pm Reply

    My first ballet experience was London Festival Ballet production of Coppelia with Carole Hill ,Kerrison Cooke and Ken Wells at the New Victoria Cinema (now Apollo Victoria) in 1974, during one of their breaks from showing films .I remember the production was very beautiful and the sound of the huge live Orchestra playing the music was almost overwhelming.
    The Orchestra at ROH still has the same effect everytime I attend and that alone is worth the ticket price to me.

  15. Alan Ware MBE responded on 12 May 2016 at 3:53pm Reply

    I cannot remember the year but I was given a box for four to see Swan Lake with Fonteyn and Nureyev. The atmosphere was electric and it seemed the curtain calls and flowers seem to go on forever. Unforgettable.

  16. Stevie responded on 12 May 2016 at 7:56pm Reply

    My first ballet experience was Birmingham Royal Ballet in Plymouth. Cant remember much about it, other than leaving before the end to catch the last train. Me thinks it could have been Beauty and the Beast. Some time later went to see the National Ballet of Cuba perform Don Quixote, in Edinburgh and remember it well. Soon followed the National Ballet of Spain, at the Festival and by then, well on the way to being hooked.

  17. Vincent Dalgarno responded on 12 May 2016 at 11:16pm Reply

    I remember seeing the Red Shoes in the cinema. My first live ballet was The Royal Ballet on tour in Vancouver. Svetlana Beriosova in The Firebird and Birthday Offering!! I fell in love with her and saw her later in Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Giselle, the last three she danced with Donald MacLeary.

  18. Caroline Rand responded on 13 May 2016 at 12:02pm Reply

    I found the programme only the other day! Le Lac des Cygnes with Margot Fonteyn and David Blair. Monica Mason was a soloist, and Anthony Dowell in the corps. It was 23rd June, 1962 - and I was 10. I have been fortunate enough to have been enjoying the ballet ever since.

  19. Natascha responded on 13 May 2016 at 12:44pm Reply

    First ballet was Lac des Cygnes in Paris the Bolshoi Ballet 1972 (I think). I was 12 . It changed my life and I am so grateful I saw it.

  20. Alice Wheeler responded on 14 May 2016 at 12:06am Reply

    My first live ballet was Giselle at the Leeds Grand Theatre in 1975 when I was 10 with the then sister company of the Royal Ballet, it starred a young Marion Tait & Stephen Jefferies. The following year my Mum took me see London Festival Ballet in The Nutcracker. I didn't want it to end and cried all the way to the station! Going to the ballet has always been a wonderful magical experience, a great escape from everyday life. Forty years later the experience still moves me to tears....

  21. Valerie Knight responded on 15 May 2016 at 5:22pm Reply

    A special schools matinee Mixed Bill in Derby 1953 when I was 14 - can't remember the first piece but there was 'Twelfth Night' 'Les Sylphides' which took my breath away and 'Pineapple Poll' which I didn't see again till recently in Poole (Birmingham RB). When my young daughters started lessons in 1968 we went once a year to the ballet when RB or Festival Ballet came to Nottingham. First visit to ROH was a "once in a life time visit" in 1993 - we've been several times every year since. Absolutely love it. Frankenstein at the cinema on Wednesday. (Birmingham RB in Poole last night - great!)

  22. Maria Martin responded on 15 May 2016 at 10:47pm Reply

    I first saw Swan Lake when I was about 10 years old - mesmerising. I took my eldest daughter to see Darcey Bussell perform in Sleeping Beauty at the 50th anniversary in the presence of The Queen. I truly wonderful performance by Darcey on what was a really magical evening. My daughter was about 11 and still remembers it now aged 32!

  23. Peter Hebdon responded on 16 May 2016 at 10:20am Reply

    My first ballet was a triple bill with the SWRB in Newcastle in 1968, we had a box at the Theatre Royal, the third piece was Massine's Boutique Fantasque, I was hooked after that.
    My first Royal Ballet performance was Swan Lake in 1979.

  24. Sav Ross responded on 16 May 2016 at 3:49pm Reply

    My first ballet was when I was about five years old. It was 'the Stars of the Ballet Moscow' when they came on tour to South Africa and they performed the 2nd act of swan lake as well as parts of sleeping beauty and the nutcracker. I don't remember much unfortunately, the only thing I do is wanting to have a big white tutu!

  25. Daniel Bowles responded on 17 May 2016 at 10:49am Reply

    I took my Mum to see the nutcracker at Christmas, absolutely STUNNING. IT was one of the most beautiful performances I have ever seen and I've been hooked since!

  26. Pam responded on 18 May 2016 at 11:25pm Reply

    My first ballet was Swan Lake with Margot Fontayne & a young David Wall in Manchester. They gave me the great gift of a life long love of Ballet and particularly the Royal Ballet, which I have followed all my life and happily I'm still visiting occasionally at the ROH.

  27. Liane Smith responded on 20 May 2016 at 5:05pm Reply

    My first ballets were the double bill on 17 May 1990 with Sylvie Guillem and Anthony Dowell in A Month in the Country and Bruce Samson, Darcey Bussell & Antony Dowson in Song of the Earth. It doesn't come much better. A complete hairs on the back of the neck moment, wondering where this thing called ballet had been all my life up to then! What a contrast between the two pieces, completely opened my eyes to the beauty, power, emotions, grace, truth of this most wnderful of art forms and it was the harbinger of many very special memories of the RB and other companies in the early 1990s. I'd so love to have that time all over again!

  28. Peter Vintner responded on 21 May 2016 at 3:26pm Reply

    My first experience of ballet was in December 1962 when my Godmother took me to see The Nutcracker, I think it was, (or was it Swan Lake?) at the Coliseum, performed by the then London Festival Ballet (now the ENB).
    It wasn't the sort of thing little boys talked about in school back then, and I had no dreams or means of pursuing it as a career. I actually, eventually, became a photographer, but I have adored ballet pretty much ever since that first introduction. And I have the highest admiration for ballet dancers who beat up their bodies so we can enjoy the most sublimely beautiful of the performing arts.

  29. Stuart Dixon responded on 21 May 2016 at 6:45pm Reply

    Can't remember the date, but Alina dancing Giselle at the RB with Johan. Never forget it. Broke my heart.

  30. Louise Williams responded on 21 May 2016 at 8:24pm Reply

    1992 Swan Lake with Sylvie Guillem. It blew my
    mind and I've been a keen ballet follower ever since. I truly found something that night which has gone on to be a very important part of my life.

  31. Frank responded on 22 May 2016 at 2:16am Reply

    The Nutcracker by English National Ballet at the London Coliseum in December 1998 (Derek Deane production).

    Difficult to describe how entrancing and thrilling I found it. It was a magical revelatory experience that I have sought to repeat many times since then. It seemed an exhibition of physical and artistic accomplishment far beyond anything I had experienced before.

    I remember the ticket was about 3 quid (student discount on the cheapest available seats in the balcony). Even 18 years ago, that was still very cheap. It's tempting to say it's been the best 3 quid I have ever spent.

  32. Lesley Stansfield responded on 20 June 2016 at 12:38am Reply

    I was born in 1954 and in the 1950's and 60's, the Royal Ballet Touring Company (SWRB) used to visit Glasgow most years in December (my birthday month). I can remember being entranced by La Fille Mal Gardee, a bit confused by House of Birds and simply loved Les Deux Pigeons. I was so lucky to have a mum who loved dance
    and made sure I got to see the best on a yearly basis. Even got to see Fonteyn dance
    Swan Lake in 1968...waited outside the stage door and saw her emerge swathed in furs and looking very beautiful.
    Got her autograph too! My love of ballet has
    never left me.
    It is sad though that in Scotland, we haven't
    seen the Royal Ballet in decades and BRB ( the old touring company in my mind) only
    infrequently. I have actually seen the
    Mariinsky Ballet in Edinburgh more times
    than BRB. The Royal Ballet (Covent Garden) haven't toured to Scotland in many
    It is wonderful to now see live performances
    in the cinema....I can see dancers perform that I read about in my dance mags......but
    nothing compares to being in a theatre and
    experiencing the thrill of watching a live performance.

    My love of ballet came largely from seeing live ballet and great ballets and dancers of the Royal Ballet on a yearly basis from a young age. That was the magic that has never left me.

    If the Mariinsky Ballet can perform in the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, with full productions of the classics, (I think the stage is actually bigger and better than Covent Garden) then I think the Royal Ballet should consider doing a bit of touring to the rest of the UK.

  33. Vanessa Innes-Wagstaff responded on 5 November 2016 at 6:52pm Reply

    My first experience was at the ROH I was 11, my aunt had special permission to use the royal box, and we met Jennifer Penney after the performance of Cinderella. It was magical. But it was the film the Red Shoes, that compelled me to do class for 25 years, it had a haunting addictive quality. Ballet remains a key interest for me.

  34. Cathy Sack responded on 11 December 2016 at 4:34pm Reply

    Âge 11 in 1963, sobbed my heart out at Swan Lake at Covent Garden. have loved all sorts of ballet and dance ever since - keep up the great work

  35. Louise Adams responded on 23 June 2017 at 7:39am Reply

    1947 I was top of the class in my primary school exams .
    My dad took me to London Zoo as a treat and completely on the offchance decided to try for any returns for the Ballet at Covent Garden----the last night of the season,what a hope.We were lucky. Margot Fonteyn and Michael Soames in The Sleeping Beauty. A castle magically disappearing behind a forest of several gauze curtains;a stage groaning with flowers,beautiful young Margot as the Princess Aurora and Sadler Wells Ballet doing all those gorgeous red booted national dances.
    I have never forgotten it and have been an obsessional balletomane ever since.

  36. Joan Stanton responded on 11 September 2017 at 1:45pm Reply

    In the late 1940s my Edinburgh school planned a visit to see the Markova/Dolin company in Swan Lake. We crocodiles to the Royal Lyceum theatre, a group of very excited girls, only to be told there was a mix-up and there were no space for us. I still remember the misery of the trail back to school. My sainted mother booked tickets for Coppelia later in the run, and that led to mass purchases of ballet music for the wind-up gramophone (and a life-long great love for this most-special of art forms).
    Consequently our Greek dance lessons were deemed rather soppy, specially as some of the moves/poses involved shouts of "yah"! The Royal Ballet's schools' matinees must infect many young people with this happiest of 'bugs'; it would be wonderful to find out just how many.
    Huge thanks to everyone involved in the many happy hours spent at Covent Garden.

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