Even after being an editor at Dance Magazine, I knew very little about the Sadler's Wells. Thank goodness for the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, particularly for issues of Dance Observer from the thirties and forties.
So, what did I learn? Well, the original company, the Vic-Wells Ballet, was established by Madame Ninette de Valoise in London in 1931. Frederick Ashton was named the company’s choreographer in 1935, and a young Margot Fonteyn (really Peggy Hookham!) was the company's fast-rising prima ballerina. The company was renamed the Sadler’s Wells Ballet in 1940, and in 1956 became the Royal Ballet.
One of the most amazing stories about the Vic-Wells/Sadler's Wells Ballet is that they were stranded in Holland when war broke out, and barely escaped. They left behind the sets, costumes and notes for the Frederick Ashton/ Constance Lambert ballet, Horoscope, which starred Margot Fonteyn and Michael Soams, now forever lost.