(formerly London Festival Ballet)
British ballet company based in London. It has its origins in the Markova-*Dolin company which toured Britain (1935–7) and was re-formed as Gala Performances of Ballet in 1949. The two stars were anxious to drop their names from the company in order to avoid having to dance at every performance and when it was again re-formed in 1950 it took its title from the approaching Festival of Britain (1951). It gave its first performance as Festival Ballet in 1950, under the management of impresario Julian Braunsweg and the artistic direction of Dolin, first in Bournemouth, then at the Stoll Theatre, London. In 1951 it took the title London's Festival Ballet, establishing regular seasons at London's Royal Festival Hall from 1952, and at London's Coliseum from 1969. In the same year it changed its name to London Festival Ballet. It was renamed English National Ballet in 1989 to emphasize the company's status both nationally and internationally, and in 1997 finally severed its links with the Festival Hall, using the Coliseum as its London base. It has always toured widely both at home and abroad and from the start its aim has been to present ballet to the widest possible audience. Its repertory has ranged from 19th-century classics such as Dolin's 1950s' staging of Giselle, to works from the Diaghilev and subsequent Ballets Russes repertoires, to more recent work, such as Lander's Études (1954), Carter's Witch Boy (1957), and Dolin's Variations for Four (1957). Later acquisitions have included Bourmeister's The Snow Maiden (1961), Nureyev's Sleeping Beauty (1975), P. Schaufuss's La Sylphide (1979), and Michael Corder's Cinderella (1996) and Snow Queen (2007). From the beginning the company has drawn its dancers from around the world and featured international guest artists, including Danilova, Toumanova, T. Lander, Flindt, Evdokimova, Ruanne, Terabust, Maximova, and Asylmuratova. Markova was the company ballerina until 1952 and continued to guest until her retirement in 1964. She also staged the company's production of Les Sylphides (1976). Dolin retired as artistic director in 1960 but continued to make guest appearances as Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker until 1980. Braunsweg left in 1965. Subsequent directors were Donald Albery (1965–8), Beryl Grey (1968–79), and John Field (1979–84), under whose direction the repertory focused more heavily on the classics. When Schaufuss took over in 1984 however he introduced a more adventurous policy, bringing in new works by, among others, M. Clark, S. Davies, and C. Bruce (Swansong, 1987). He also introduced Ashton's Romeo and Juliet into the repertory. He was succeeded in 1990 by Ivan Nagy and in 1993 by Derek Deane. Deane pursued an increasingly populist policy, with his own full-length Alice in Wonderland (1995), for example, and productions of Swan Lake (1997), Romeo and Juliet (1998), and Sleeping Beauty (2000) designed for a mass audience in London's Royal Albert Hall. Matz Skoog was director between 2001 and 2005, adding works by McGregor and Hampson, among others, to the repertory. He was succeeded by Wayne Eagling whose additions to the repertory have included works by MacMillan, Corder, and himself. The company's official school, based at Markova House, London, was founded in 1988.