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British ballet during the inter-war years: Ninette de Valois and the establishment of the Royal Ballet

Hudson, Janet Marie (2007) British ballet during the inter-war years: Ninette de Valois and the establishment of the Royal Ballet. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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In 1925 Ninette de Valois left Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and returned to London, her vision was to establish a national ballet company. At home in the Royal Opera House Convent Garden, The Royal Ballet today stands witness that de Valois was successful in achieving her dream. This thesis re-traces the early years of the company’s history, focusing in particular on Britain’s inter-war period; the environment that both complicated and assisted the establishment of a national ballet.

To analyse Britain’s inter-war period and the development of The Royal Ballet this thesis consists of three chapters, focused on gender class and identity. Drawing in particular on the King’s College Lydia Lopokova Keynes Collection and the Finsbury Library Sadler’s Wells Collection traditional methods of historical analysis are overlaid with post-modern theoretical discourses that acknowledge the complexities of gender, class and identity. Hence chapter one de-constructs the noble dancer and the ballerina, and relocates them within their socio-political environments. Chapter two draws on David Cannadine’s analysis of British class, and investigates the inter-play between British royalty, Britons and society. Finally, chapter three investigates notions of identity, Englishness, Britishness and the establishment of a national ballet company.

I argue that the establishment of The Royal Ballet was more complicated than just creating a company for the sake of art. It was a complex inter-action between those who were passionate about ballet as an art form and Britons who saw themselves as a part of a complex, hierarchical society headed by the monarchy. Hence the company’s establishment, during the inter-war years, marks a significant cultural and social event in the history of Britain and not just a turning point in the history of ballet, because of the many ways the company’s presence has shaped the identity of British dance.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Brash, Helen
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