Abbey event to celebrate Royal Ballet's Irish founder


THE FIRST symposium on Dame Ninette de Valois, the Wicklow woman who founded the Royal Ballet in London and later the Turkish State Ballet, will take place at the Abbey Theatre next Sunday.

The event, presented by Irish Ballet Forum, will see leading figures from the world of dance, including the director of the Royal Ballet, Kevin O’Hare, celebrate this remarkable woman’s life and achievements.

De Valois also established the Abbey Theatre School of Ballet, at the invitation of WB Yeats.

She lived until age 102 and continued to make public appearances, including a visit to Dublin, right up to her death in 2001.

Her great-niece, the designer Louise Verity, who lives in Birr, will also attend the Dublin event.

Born Edris Stannus in 1898 in Blessington, de Valois spent her childhood in Baltyboys House and developed a love of dancing through performing traditional Irish jigs, and beginning ballet lessons at the age of 10.

She danced professionally as a soloist with Diaghilev’s celebrated Ballets Russes.

Fondly known as “Madam”, she established the Royal Ballet – one of the world’s foremost dance companies – in 1931.

She founded the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1946.

The Irish Ballet Forum was set up in 2009 by ballet professionals working around the country to develop ways of encouraging students to become professional.

The day-long event at the Abbey will include the first Irish coaching session with Dame Monica Mason CBE, retired director of the Royal Ballet; the Irish premiere of a film recreating the WB Yeats/Ninette de Valois dance drama The King of the Great Clock Tower; and a documentary about de Valois based on her biography, Come Dance With Me.

Tickets for the event, which includes lunch, are €55 and can be booked at the Abbey at 01 8787222 and online.