Students in studio in the 1950's

‘Respect the past, herald the future, but concentrate on the present.’

– Dame Ninette de Valois, Founder of The Royal Ballet School and Companies

Our Ballet History Timeline

Our Ballet History Timeline is an online tool that relates to the wider history of Classical ballet as a theatre art form.

Set out as an easy-to-explore linear chronology, the Timeline is illustrated by archival treasures from The Royal Ballet School Special Collections, allowing these wonderful items to be seen online for the first time, and appreciated within their proper historical context.

HistoryFounding of the School

The School was founded in 1926, when Dame Ninette de Valois opened her Academy of Choreographic Art. Inspired to create a repertory ballet company and school, she collaborated with Lilian Baylis, lessee and Manager of the Old Vic Theatre.

When Lilian Baylis acquired the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, de Valois moved the School there in 1931 and it became The Vic-Wells Ballet School feeding dancers into The Vic-Wells Ballet Company. In 1939 the school was renamed The Sadler’s Wells Ballet School and the Company became The Sadler’s Wells Ballet.

Move to Covent Garden

In 1946 The Sadler’s Wells ballet moved to a permanent home at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. A second company was formed, The Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet. In 1947 the School moved from Sadler’s Wells Theatre to Barons Court and general education was combined with vocational ballet training.

The first five younger years of the School moved to White Lodge, Richmond Park in 1955/56 and became residential, combining general education and vocational ballet training. The final three years of study for older students continued to be based at Barons Court.

A Royal Charter

The Royal Charter was granted in October 1956 and the School and companies were renamed The Royal Ballet School, The Royal Ballet and the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (later renamed Birmingham Royal Ballet following its move there in 1990).

From that time the School has become both the leading classical ballet school in the United Kingdom earning government support and an international institution which attracts the very best ballet students worldwide. The calibre of students graduating from the school is self-evident – see our list of notable alumni.

Move to Floral Street, Covent Garden

In January 2003 the Barons Court campus moved to new premises in Floral Street, alongside London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The state-of-the-art studios are now linked to The Royal Ballet by the award winning Bridge of Aspiration, fulfilling Dame Ninette’s dream to have Company and School side by side in the centre of London.

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