Ninette de Valois was gifted with myriad talents. To summarise these as dancer, choreographer, artistic director and theatre administrator tells only a fraction of her story. What is lacking in such a summary are the nuances, the varying facets within each of those categories. It has required a wealth of writers, teachers, performers, colleagues, one-time students and collaborators to come together to engage with and celebrate the complexity of this remarkable woman. More details in her portrait may be gleaned from the titles of the sections into which the volume has been divided: Biography; Teaching; Wordsmith; Company; Turkey; Choreography; Collaborations; Herself. Yet these headings merely intimate the strengths of her private inner resources (her acumen, astounding foresight, dedication, daring) and the diversity of her public achievements, the realising and the steady but relentless expanding of her vision both for a company and of the potentials of dance as an art-form. Determining those strengths and that diversity is the objective of Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist, which is based on a conference held at the Royal Ballet School in 2011.
Writing alone, however brilliant the description or the analysis, cannot hope fully to capture the vitality of theatrical performance or the rigours of the training and rehearsal schedules that underpin its virtuosity. To help remedy this lack, the book contains more than fifty photographs and includes a DVD offering more than four hours of filmed material to complement the written word. The DVD includes material recorded at the conference (including a complete performance of Yeats' The King of the Great Clock Tower, originally choreographed by de Valois and here recreated by Will Tuckett and performed by students from the Royal Ballet School) and rare archive recordings. [The DVD is coded NTSC region free, for world-wide use.]
The intention in devising this volume has been to provide a substantial resource to assist future exploration of de Valois’ life and work and appendices outline the contents of the major collections housing materials relevant to further study. The many essays here pursue divergent approaches and encompass contrasting viewpoints. But it is without question that de Valois’ unparalleled success derived from her unshaken faith that ballet in its training methods and its repertoire must be both fearlessly adventurous and confidently traditionalist.
Contributors to the book include Valerie Adams, Rupert Christiansen, Susie Crow, Kate Flatt, Beth Genné, Richard Glasstone, Ann Hutchinson Guest, Jennifer Jackson, Nicola Katrak, Patricia Linton, Alastair Macaulay, Anna Meadmore, Geraldine Morris, Victoria O'Brien, Jann Parry, Giannandrea Poesio, and Jane Pritchard.
Libby Worth is a Senior Lecturer in Theatre Practice at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Richard Cave is Professor Emeritus in Drama and Theatre Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London.