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Beryl Grey

(b. 1927)


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(orig. Beryl Groom; b London, 11 Jun. 1927)

British dancer and ballet director. She studied with Madeline Sharp and at Sadler's Wells Ballet School where she was a pupil of de Valois, Sergeyev, and Volkova; later studies with Anna Northcote and Andrey de Vos. She joined Sadler's Wells Ballet (later the Royal Ballet) in 1941 when she was just 14, a unique British version of the famous Russian ‘baby ballerinas’. On her fifteenth birthday she danced her first Odette-Odile, and soon afterwards added Giselle and The Sleeping Beauty to her repertory. An exceptionally tall and elegant dancer, she was an outstanding Lilac Fairy and Queen of the Wilis and danced the former role at the historic re-opening of the Royal Opera House in 1946. Her list of created roles is comparatively small: Ashton's The Quest (1943), Les Sirènes (1946), Cinderella (Winter Fairy, 1948), Homage to the Queen (1953), and Birthday Offering (1956); de Valois's Promenade (1943); Massine's Donald of the Burthens (1951); and Cranko's Lady and the Fool (1955). In 1952 she made the first stereoscopic ballet film, The Black Swan, with John Field. In 1957, after sixteen years with the Royal Ballet, she loosened her ties with the company to dance as an international guest artist. She was the first Western dancer to guest at the Bolshoi (1957–8) and subsequently danced in Leningrad, Kiev, and Tbilisi. She wrote about her experiences in the Soviet Union in Red Curtain Up (London, 1958). In 1964 she danced in China, performing with the Peking and Shanghai Ballet companies, and narrating her experiences in Through the Bamboo Curtain (London, 1965). From 1968 to 1979 she was artistic director of London Festival Ballet (later English National Ballet) and also served as Chairman (from 1984) and President (from 1991) of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. In 1984 she staged Giselle for the West Australian Ballet, in 1986 The Sleeping Beauty for the Royal Swedish Ballet. She continues to coach her former repertory. Dame of the Order of the British Empire 1988.

Subjects: Dance.


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