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Summary Article: Royal Ballet
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Leading British ballet company and school, based at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. Until 1956 it was known as the Sadler's Wells Ballet. It was founded in 1931 by Ninette de Valois, who established her school and company at the Sadler's Wells Theatre. It moved to Covent Garden in 1946. Frederick Ashton became principal choreographer in 1935, providing the company with its uniquely English ballet style. Leading dancers included Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Alicia Markova, and Antoinette Sibley. The artistic director is Monica Mason, from 2003.

The company's roots can be traced to an invitation by Lilian Baylis to Ninette de Valois to establish her school and company at the rebuilt Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1931. The Vic-Wells Ballet, as it was then known, developed its popularity largely through the performances of Markova and through de Valois' shrewd artistic policies and organizational prowess. In 1946 the company changed its name to Sadler's Wells Ballet and shifted base from the Wells Theatre to the Royal Opera House. The same year saw the founding of a second, touring troupe, the Sadler's Wells Opera Ballet (later Theatre Ballet).

In 1963 de Valois resigned in favour of Frederick Ashton as director. He was responsible for creating such ballets as Marguerite and Armand for Margot Fonteyn, whose partnership with Rudolf Nureyev ushered in the Royal Ballet's golden age. Kenneth MacMillan took over from Ashton in 1970 and strengthened both companies' modern-ballet styles with works from US choreographers such as Jerome Robbins and Glen Tetley.

Anthony Dowell took over from Norman Morrice in 1996. He declared a policy of rejuvenating the classics, as in his Swan Lake (1987) and The Sleeping Beauty (1994). Among new works, the Royal Ballet commissioned Kenneth MacMillan's The Prince of the Pagodas (1989), David Bintley's Cyrano (1991) and Tombeux (1993), and Twyla Tharp's Mr Worldly Wise (1995). The Royal Ballet also acquired its first William Forsythe ballet, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, in 1992, later joined by three other Forsythe ballets, which showed several of the Royal Ballet dancers excelling in the extended technique required in these works.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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