Ninette de Valois
Dame Ninette established ballet in a Britain that had no ballet tradition. Her Royal Ballet School became the cradle of an English ballet style, and her dance company evolved into the renowned Royal Ballet of Covent Garden.
Ninette de Valois was the stage name of Edris Stannus, born into an Anglo-Irish military family in County Wicklow, Ireland, June 6，1898. The family moved to England when she was 7，and at age 13 she was performing in Lila Field’s Wonder Children in commercial theater. She went on to ballet, performed at seaside resorts when she was a teenager,and “danced the Dying Swan on every pier in England, she said. At that time, ballet in Britain was just a novelty turn in the variety theaters.
De Valois took lessons from Italian dance master Enrico Cecchiti, and joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russian company for two years. She gave up dancing at 26 when she learned she had been struggling with the effects of undiagnosed childhood polio. “It was no tragedy, ” she said. “I wasn’t that great.” In 1926, de Valois opened her London Academy of Choreographic Art, and formed a small group of dancers. She began a collaboration with Lilian Baylis at the Old Vic theater, teaching movement to the actors and giving ballet performances. In 1931 she moved to Baylis，second theater, Sadler’s Wells, persuaded Frederic Ashton from the Marie Rambert ballet company to join her company as choreographer. It grew steadily and became the Sadler’s Wells Ballet.
She was strict, imperious, and did not accept laziness or incompetence in her dancers. “If she walked into classroom, our backs would stiffen and our knees would start to shake. A word from her could make or break you, ” a former student said.
She was made a dame, the equivalent of a knight, in 1951, and France made her a chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1950. In 1980，Queen Elizabeth II made her a member of the exclusive Order of the Companions of Honor, for men and women who have done “conspicuous national service.”