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Dancing in the Blitz: How World War II Made British Ballet

David Bintley on how the Sadler's Wells Ballet company brought ballet to the British people as an antidote to austerity and emerged, postwar, as the Royal Ballet.

David Bintley, director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, explores how the Second World War was the making of British ballet and how fundamental the years of hardship and adversity were in getting the British public to embrace ballet. Bintley shows how the then Sadler's Wells Ballet Company, led by Ninette de Valois and featuring a star-studded generation of British dancers and choreographers including Margot Fonteyn and Frederick Ashton, was forged during the Second World War.

It's the story of how de Valois and her small company of dancers took what was essentially a foreign art form and made it British despite the falling bombs, the rationing and the call-up. Plus it is the story of how Britain, as a nation, fell in love with ballet.

Using rare and previously unseen footage and interviews with dance icons such as Dame Gillian Lynne and Dame Beryl Grey, Bintley shows how the Sadler's Wells Ballet company survived an encounter with Nazi forces in Holland, dancing whilst the bombs were falling in the Blitz, rationing and a punishing touring schedule to bring ballet to the British people as an antidote to the austerity the country faced to emerge, postwar, as the Royal Ballet.

59 minutes

Last on

Mon 14 Sep 2020 00:00

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    The Sleeping Beauty - Prologue

  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    The Sleeping Beauty - Grand Pas

  • Constant Lambert

    Dante Sonata

  • Anne Shelton & Ambrose and His Orchestra

    I'm Stepping Out With A Memory

  • Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc

    Les Biches - Rondeau

    Conductor: Georges Prêtre. Orchestra: Paris Conservatoire Orchestra.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Job: A Masque For Dancing

  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Swan Lake

  • William Walton


  • Geoffrey Toye

    Haunted Ballroom

  • Vera Lynn

    This Is The Army Mr Jones

  • Vera Lynn

    Wish Me Luck

  • Glenn Miller Orchestra

    In An Old Dutch Garden

  • Matthijs Vermeulen

    Les Victories - Symphony No. 4

    Conductor: Ernest Bour. Orchestra: Residentie Orkest.
  • Constant Lambert


  • Franz Liszt

    The Prospect Before Us

  • Public Service Broadcasting

    London Can Take It

  • Chris Elliott

    The Blitz

  • Frédéric Chopin

    Les Sylphides

  • Eric Coates

    Calling All Workers

    Performer: Eric Coates Orchestra.
  • Léo Delibes


  • Joe Loss & His Orchestra

    Moonlight Cocktail

  • Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson

    You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To

  • Joe Loss and His Band & Monte Rey

    There'll Always Be An England

  • Geraldo and His Orchestra & Three Boys & A Girl

    Ma, I Miss Your Apple Pie

  • Arthur Bliss

    Miracle In The Gorbals

  • Vera Lynn

    When The Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)

  • Glenn Miller

    In The Mood

  • Ethel Merman

    Something To Dance About

  • César Franck

    Symphonic Variations

  • Harry James

    You Made Me Love You

  • Della Reese

    Once Upon A Dream

  • 00:31

    Eric Coates

    Calling All Workers (Worker's Playtime' Theme Tune)

    Performer: Eric Coates Orchestra.
  • 00:40

    Frédéric Chopin

    Les Sylphides - 8: Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat major, Op. 18


Role Contributor
Presenter David Bintley
Director Paul Wu
Producer Paul Wu
Executive Producer Mark Cooper
Participant Pauline Clayden
Participant Henry Danton
Participant Julia Farron
Participant Beryl Grey
Participant Gillian Lynne
Expert Jane Pritchard
Expert Anna Meadmore


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