Preview: Dancing in the Blitz

Dancing in the Blitz
David Bintley is surefooted in discovering the shell-shocked origins of British Ballet. Photo: BBC

How World War II Made Britain Ballet

Despite the deaths, destruction and depression associated with the Second World War, David Bintley explores how it had a profoundly positive affect on the British ballet tradition. Bintley, who is director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, reveals how the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company was forged out of the ashes of the war.

The company was led by Ninette de Valois and featured star dancers and choreographers like Margot Fonteyn and Frederick Ashton. It’s the story of how de Valois and her small company took a foreign dance form and made it British despite the bombs, rationing and call-up.

With unseen and forgotten footage and interviews with dance icons Dame Gillian Lynne and Dame Beryl Grey, we learn of the company’s brush with the Nazis in Holland, their dances under Blitz-hit London, and a tour-schedule that acted as emergency morale relief to the British people. It emerged after the war with new life, as the Royal Ballet.

Dancing in the Blitz – Saturday at 4.20pm on BBC Two