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Our Cinderella Story: A New Wimbledon Theatre History of Ballet

By Amy Cooper

Did you know our glorious Edwardian theatre has a highly illustrious history regarding ballet? Famous and innumerably skilled dancers have been pas de bourree'ing across our stage since it opened in 1910. Here's FIVE ballet related facts that you may not know regarding us. 

1. In 1937 Alicia Markova performed at our venue in The Beloved One as the captivating Muse.

2. A Performance by The New London Ballet starring Galina Samsova and Andre Prokovsky was conducted in 1974. This was after them leaving the London Festival Ballet to direct and perform in this new troupe.

3. A Gala Evening of Ballet was conducted by Margot Fonteyn upon our stage in 1977.

4. In 2001 we opened Phantom, the Ballet performed by Debbie McGee's Ballet Imaginaire, with the company's production being designed by her magician husband Paul Daniels

5. In 2004 ATG offered a lifeline and took over the venue, saving our beloved theatre. So having been closed in 2003, Matthew Bourne's The Nutcracker then reopened us the following year. However this isn't where this fact ends, we've been lucky enough to exhibit Matthew Bourne's innovative productions ever since, with The Nutcracker returning to us in 2008, Swan Lake exuberantly bounding onto our stage in 2005 and 2014, Sleeping Beauty promenading in 2016 and then experimental and ground-breaking works: Edward Scissorhands (2008), Car Man (2015) and The Red Shoes (2017) taking their turns respectively. 

2018 it seems, will be another great year for Ballet in our humble home, we've already undertaken two sell-out performances of the Russian State Ballet of Siberia's Swan Lake, but crucially this year will see us exhibit another of Sir Matthew Bourne's masterpieces in collaboration with his company New Adventures. That masterpiece will, of course, be his new smash-hit Cinderella set during the Blitz. At its heart, this piece has a wartime romance between a dashing young RAF pilot and Cinderella herself, whisking the audience on a twisting adventure through war-torn London. The intuitive idea came to Bourne during an exploration of the magnificent score of Prokofiev. As it was composed in 1946, he couldn't help thinking about writing such beautiful music during the Second World War, identifying something 'darkly romantic in [its] tone'. Though he notes it is a fanciful tale of an English whimsy romance, he has tried to capture wartime love and conflict, 'where love is found and lost suddenly, and the world danced as if there was no tomorrow.' Furthermore Sir Matthew dedicates this show to his grandparents who lived streets away from each other in the East End during the blitz, fondly remembering them telling him stories of the time and 'the fear and the friendships made'. Making this piece at its core vividly real and nostalgic. 

Inside the show: Two themes to look out for. 

  • The RAF pilot's near-miss.
    It soon becomes apparent that he did not miraculously survive the crash, he has in fact cheated death, causing the heavenly agents and angels to realise their mistake. It is only with the help of a male guardian angel and the women he loves that he is able to stop hovering between life and death. 

  • The magical Act Two bombed ballroom.
    This ghostly, haunting tableau of the waltzes of Prokofiev owes much to the tragic bombing of the Café de Paris on March 8th 1941. The club suffered 'a direct hit, killing or injuring nearly 100 dancing couples, cabaret artistes and staff.' This scene represents both Cinderella's idyllic dream and nightmare. 

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