The author of the Maggie Hope Mystery series
writes about KBO, cocktails, code-breaking, and red lipstick.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Sadler's Wells Ballet

One of the characters in Mr. Churchill's Secretary, Sarah Sanderson, is a corps dancer with the Sadler's Wells Ballet, the forerunner to the Royal Ballet.

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.

Frederick Ashton and his Ballets by David Vaughn was a terrific resource for information on the Vic-Wells 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.

However, I'm delighted to say that Ashton's 1939 production of Sleeping Beauty starring Margot Fonteyn not only survived, but will be be performed by the Royal Ballet in the spring of 2010.

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