Dame Ninette de Valois was a ballerina, choreographer, teacher and director and founder of what is now called the Royal Ballet, one of the foremost ballet companies of 20th century and still one of leading ballet companies in the world. She was born in Ireland in 1898.
Before any English ballet companies existed, she danced in pantomime and music hall before joining the famous Ballets Russes with Serge Diaghilev in 1923. With Diaghilev she learned how to run a ballet company.
From dancer to choreographer
Ninette de Valois first established herself as a choreographer producing several short ballets for the Old Vic Theatre in London. She provided choreography for plays and operas at the theatre too. All of them were performed by her own pupils. She developed her work as choreographer working at many different theatres, including the famous Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
By the time she started the Vic-Wells Ballet Company, she was the most experienced choreographer in whole Britain, creating most of the repertory for the company.
Under her direction, the ballet company flourished in the 1930’s, becoming one of the first Western dance companies to perform the classical ballet repertoire made by the Imperial Russian Ballet. Also, she set about establishing a British repertory, engaging Frederick Ashton as Principal Choreographer and Constant Lambert as Musical Director in 1935.
She choreographed a number of her own ballets, including her most notable works: Job (1931) her first major production and it was the first ballet to define the future of the British ballet repertoire; The Rake’s Progress (1935) and Checkmate (1937).
Influence on the development of ballet in Turkey
Ninette de Valois exerted a great deal of influence on the development of ballet in Turkey, which had no prior history with the art form. She was invited by the Turkish Government to research the possibility of establishing a ballet school in the country and subsequently she visited the country to open a school following the same model as her ballet school in London. At the beginning, very few people took this project seriously, but the school did become firmly established and led to development of the Turkish State Ballet.