English National Ballet

English National Ballet
   Despite a tortuous history punctuated by the potentially catastrophic financial crises typical of postwar policy for the arts generally and for dance in particular in the UK, the English National Ballet survives to delight audiences at London’s Royal Festival Hall, usually during the early weeks of the year, before going on to tour the provinces. The company is associated above all with spectacular, even glamorous productions of full-length ballets performed in quite traditional styles. Though sometimes criticized for not generally being in the forefront of innovation, the ENB deserves credit for maintaining in repertory such romantic classics as The Nutcracker and Cinderella, thus attracting and satisfying a large if somewhat conventional public. It further contributes to dance in Britain by running a ballet school.
   In 1950, anticipating the Festival of Britain by a year, the Festival Ballet emerged from the touring company headed by Anton Dolin (or, to give the Sussex-born dancer his English name, Sydney Healey-Kay) and Alicia Markova (Lillian Marks), who had both starred in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and had teamed up on previous occasions. Markova left after two years and was replaced by Belinda Wright, but Dolin remained artistic director until handing over to John Gilpin in 1962. For the first fifteen years of its existence the manager was Dr Julian Braunsweg, an irrepressibly enterprising impresario. His policy was to provide, not only in the capital but also in provincial centres and even occasionally abroad, fine productions of popular ballets with international stars at affordable prices. That ought to have been a winning formula, especially as it combined the pursuit of excellence in its performances with an anti-elitist attitude towards its audiences. But, despite good houses, tickets sales could not meet ever-rising expenses, and the Festival Ballet, which lacked a permanent base, had to compete for funding with other companies that were considered more adventurous in their programming. The consequence was repeated doubts about viability.
   Whether successive names changes, first to the London Festival Ballet, then to the English National Ballet, have contributed to the maintenance of corporate identity and consistency of artistic policy is a moot point as well. Despite its difficulties the ENB has struggled through. Under Peter Schaufuss, it strengthened its position as a company specializing in the classics and contributing a vital strand to contemporary British dance theatre.
   See also: ballet; ballet music; Royal Ballet
   Further reading
    Braunsweg, Julian (1977) Ballet Scandals, 2nd edn, London: Allen & Unwin.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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