Former Laureates

Ninette de Valois

Ninette de Valois

1974

The 1974 Erasmus Prize was shared by two artists: the British dancer and artistic director Dame Ninette de Valois and the French dancer and choreographer Maurice Béjart. Ninette de Valois (1898-2001) may be regarded as the founder of English classical ballet. She trained with Cecchetti and started her career as a dancer in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. In 1926 she stopped dancing and founded a ballet school. This school became the Vic-Wells ballet in 1931, later the Sadler’s Wells Ballet and finally, since 1956, the world-famous Royal Ballet, of which she was the director until 1963. She combined classical ballet and modern works in her programming. Ninette de Valois had a great formative influence on ballet directors, and inspired many dancing teachers. She established ballet schools in Turkey and in her own native Ireland, and taught dancers such as Margot Fonteyn, Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann. Great dancers were invited into her companies, such as Rudolf Nureyev, Moira Shearer and George Balanchine. Among her best known ballets are Job (1931), The Rake’s Progress (1935) and Checkmate (1937). She published her ideas on dancing in Invitation to the Ballet (1937) and Come dance with me (1957).

Ninette de Valois used her Erasmus Prize to support ballet schools: the Ballet Rambert received a subsidy for the festivities on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1976; the Royal Ballet School received a grant for the Teachers’ Training Course Library Fund; support also was given to the Benesh Institute of Choreology and the Irish Ballet Company. She also made three grants available for two young dancers and a choreographer of the Ankara State Ballet.