English National Ballet is deeply saddened by the news that our President and former Artistic Director, Dame Beryl Grey, has passed away at the age of 95. Dame Beryl was a dedicated ambassador and supporter of the Company and leaves a significant legacy.
At the age of just 15, Dame Beryl made her stage debut as Odette / Odile in Swan Lake having joined Sadler's Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet) in 1941. She went on to dance many leading roles throughout her extraordinary career, including on eminent stages around the world. She was the first British dancer to guest with the Bolshoi Ballet, Kirov Ballet (1957-1958), and Peking Ballet (1964).
In 1957, Dame Beryl made her first appearance as Guest Artist with London Festival Ballet, as English National Ballet was then known. Among the works she performed with the Company was Reverie, in a solo especially created for her.
From 1968-1979, she took up the role of London Festival Ballet's Artistic Director, setting a new standard and ambition for the Company. During her tenure, the Company performed both nationally and internationally as she introduced new works to the repertoire. This included inviting Rudolf Nureyev to create Romeo & Juliet in 1977 – a production still in the Company's repertoire and last performed in 2017 on its 40th anniversary.
In 1988, she was awarded a DBE becoming Dame Beryl Grey, having already been honoured with a CBE in 1973.
Dame Beryl became President of English National Ballet in 2005, further building on her already considerable contribution to the Company.
Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet's Artistic Director from 2012-2022, says:
Dame Beryl was a great source of support for me, particularly in my early years as Artistic Director. Her knowledge of the company and first-hand understanding, as both dancer and artistic leader, was invaluable. She was a beautiful artist and I will be ever grateful for the generosity she showed me.
Alongside her role as ENB's President, she was also Life President of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD), President of the British Ballet Organisation, Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Dance, Music Therapy Charity and British and International Federation of Festivals. She was Chairman of the Royal Ballet Benevolent Fund, Patron of the Critics' Circle National Dance Awards, and held five honorary degrees.
Sir Roger Carr, Chair of English National Ballet commented:
On behalf of the Company and Board of Trustees, I would like to share our great sadness at this news and record our thanks to Dame Beryl for her unique contribution to English National Ballet. Her kindness, expertise and commitment have left a lasting legacy for both this Company and the wider artform.
When English National Ballet moved into its new purpose-built home, the Mulryan Centre for Dance, a studio was named in Dame Beryl's honour.
Swan Lake was a ballet especially close to her heart. We will be dedicating our upcoming performances of Derek Deane's Swan Lake at the London Coliseum to Dame Beryl, in recognition of all she did to enrich the Company.
Our thoughts and condolences are with Dame Beryl's family at this time.
Dame Beryl Grey DBE (1927-2022)
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.