Royal Ballet School Students Recreate ‘Lost’ Choreography


Ninette de Valois (standing centre) and Ursula Moreton (kneeling in dress) with students of the Vic-Wells School just after it became resident at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 1931. Photographer not known. © The Royal Ballet School Special Collections

The attempt to recreate de Valois’ ballet has been made possible by the discovery of a long- forgotten manuscript in The Royal Ballet School’s Special Collections, containing detailed rehearsal notes for The Arts of the Theatre written by de Valois’ assistant Ursula Moreton. This exciting find was made in 2019 by Anna Meadmore, Manager of the School’s Special Collections.

The Arts of the Theatre is a short experimental piece of choreography celebrating various artforms. De Valois and Moreton were among the five original dancers in the roles of Music, Painting, Dancing, Comedy and Tragedy in 1925. Now, five 3rd Year students will take on the challenge of those roles.

The students have welcomed the opportunity to participate in this historically significant project as part of their degree dissertations. Working collaboratively under Meadmore’s guidance, students have brought the early de Valois ballet back to life whilst a sixth student has been creating a documentary film record of the process.

The Arts of the Theatre was set to the piano version of Maurice Ravel’s La Valse, designed by Kathleen Dillon of the Margaret Morris Chelsea arts studio, and first performed at the Queen’s Theatre in London.

Meadmore suggests: ‘De Valois’ youthful choreographic study was an expression of her formative artistic ideals and creative vision. A reconstruction of the work will cast interesting new light on the significant period between de Valois’ departure from the Diaghilev Ballets Russes Company and the founding of her School just seven months later, in March 1926.’

The School has chosen to announce the event on 8 March 2021 – a date that not only marks International Women’s Day but also the 20th anniversary of de Valois’ death (on 8 March 2001). This event allows the School to celebrate International Women’s Day whilst honouring de Valois and her astonishing achievements.

The livestreamed performance is scheduled to take place in May 2021 as part of a presentation outlining its reconstruction, and will be followed by a Q&A with the dancers. Booking information will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Royal Ballet School

The Royal Ballet School is one of the world’s greatest centres of classical ballet training which for generations has produced dancers and choreographers of international renown. From Margot Fonteyn, Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, Anya Linden, Darcey Bussell and Kenneth MacMillan, to a new generation currently making its mark on the world stage – Matthew Ball, Lauren Cuthbertson, Samara Downs, Francesca Hayward, Brandon Lawrence, Steven McRae, Delia Mathews, Vadim Muntagirov, Marianela Nuñez, Marcelino Sambé, Edward Watson and Christopher Wheeldon to name but a few.
Admission to the School is based purely on talent and potential, regardless of academic ability or personal circumstances. 90% of current students rely on financial support to attend the School.

The School’s mission is to nurture, train and educate exceptional young dancers for The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and other leading UK and international companies, and to inspire the future of classical ballet training.

Its extensive Training and Access Programme aims to broaden access to The Royal Ballet School’s unique resources for primary school pupils, dance teachers and the general public.

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