Between 1951 and 1953 London hosted some of the most famous celebrations of nationhood of the twentieth century, shaping the image of Britain for decades to come. The Festival of Britain of 1951, the Accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 and the Coronation of 1953 were all revisited on their sixtieth anniversaries from 2011 – 2013, those early years of the 1950s attracting renewed interest and appreciation. The country was at a juncture between the privations of the 1940s and the more vibrant cultural life of the later1950s and 1960s and yet London mounted some amazing spectacles. This is especially true for dance performances since London was widely referred to by critics as ‘the dance capital of the world’. The ‘ballet boom’ was at its height, not only for the traditional ballet stages of the ‘home grown’ companies but in variety, cabaret and musical theatre. Visiting companies brought ballet from America and Europe and national dance styles from around the world.
Using the novel framework of a series of London walks, Larraine Nicholas makes a unique contribution to the current reassessment of the era. Firmly based on primary sources, the walks take readers on imaginative recreations of dance performances within their venues, sometimes in unexpected places, always within the temper of times. This book is for students of dance as well as the general reader interested in London’s theatrical heritage.
Larraine Nicholas is a Senior Lecturer in dance history at the University of Roehampton, London, and author of Dancing in Utopia: Dartington Hall and its Dancers (2007, Dance Books).