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Ninette de Valois

This week's papers are awash with tributes to Ninette de Valois from friends, colleagues and critics. We at ballet.co would like to add our own, on behalf of the thousands of dance lovers who have never met her, and perhaps never even seen her or heard her speak, but who continue to enjoy the benefits of her work, imagination and determination.

 Of all of these, it is perhaps her imagination that is the most astonishing. It's almost impossible to us, who grumble if a fortnight goes by without some ballet to watch, to think how unlikely it was in the 1920s that ballet could become rooted in England, let alone a national ballet - one with no Russian names and with its own heritage of native ballets. De Valois had the foresight to know that it could be done, and the courage and stubbornness to fight to achieve it.

Starting from the tiniest beginnings, she built up the Sadler's Wells Ballet in less than a decade into an institution capable not only of surviving years of touring during the war but of triumphantly moving into the Royal Opera House at the end of it. She encouraged and developed choreographers, contributing her own ballets until the demands of running the company became too heavy; and under her guidance generations of dancers grew from school children to fine artists.

Not everything is perfect in the Royal Ballet of today, but the structure of school and companies remains as she intended. She herself would no doubt brush off any hankerings for the glories past, and look forward to the next stage. All of us who love ballet are profoundly and permanently in her debt. {top}

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