A Dancer in Wartime: One Girl's Journey from the Blitz to Sadler's Wells
A unique memoir about ballet, the war and a peerless group of dancers.
Gillian Lynne is one of the world's pre-eminent choreographers, the groundbreaking creative force behind blockbusters such as "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera". But she started her career as a ballerina, and learnt to dance alongside Margot Fonteyn, Moira Shearer, Beryl Grey and Frederick Ashton during the Second World War. A Dancer in Wartime tells the story of Gillian's extraordinary childhood. From Miss Madeleine Sharp's Ballet Class for Young Ladies in Bromley, where she first met Beryl Grey, to being evacuated with her theatre school to a crumbling pile in rural Leicestershire, where dance classes took place in the faded ballroom and along the overgrown terrace, Gillian's talent and dedication shone. Whether performing in the war-torn provinces or the West End with doodlebugs falling, or touring a devastated Europe to entertain the troops, the early years were hard, exciting and dramatic. And when the call came to join Sadler's Wells - well, what ballerina hopeful could have asked for more?
This is a portrait of a wartime childhood like no other. Eye-opening, inspiring and moving, it charts the struggles and joys of reaching for the top of a profession that knows no limits, during a time of determined national pride and hope.
Gillian Lynne is a British ballerina, dancer, actor, theatre director, television director and choreographer, best known for her iconic choreography of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. She was born in Bromley, Kent, in 1926. At the age of ten she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dancing, after which she joined the Cone Ripman School before being selected to join Molly Lake's Ballet Guild and Ninette de Valois's Sadler's Wells. As part of what would soon become the Royal Ballet, she was renowned for her portrayal of the Black Queen in de Valois's Checkmate, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle and in roles created for her by Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann. Her film, television and stage credits include many long-running West End and Broadway shows, productions for the RSC and English National Opera and The Muppets. She continues to produce television, film and stage productions and lives in London.