On May 13th, a host of stars joined some of the UK’s foremost philanthropists at a Royal Gala, attended by Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to celebrate the completion of the four year £22 million redevelopment of White Lodge, which has been home to The Royal Ballet Lower School since 1955. Its constant use as a ballet school has required upgraded facilities to meet current regulations. The Prince is President of the School and has recently become Patron of The Royal Ballet company.
Their Royal Highnesses were met upon arrival by White Lodge students 11 year old Eleanor Ferguson and 12 year old Christopher Thomas.
Eleanor Ferguson and Christopher Thomas present flowers
Photo : Hugo Burnand
The theme of the Royal Gala was taken from the philosophy of the School’s formidable founder, Dame Ninette de Valois – “Honour the past, herald the future and concentrate on the present”.
White Lodge, a 17th Century Royal Hunting Lodge in Richmond Park, Surrey, was sumptuously decorated for the occasion by Belgian floral sculptor Daniel Ost, and by Richard MacDonald, one of the most collected figurative sculptors alive today who installed a selection of his bronze sculptures – including the Heroic bronze of Rudolph Nureyev.
Following the theme of past, present and future, attendees included Sir Anthony Dowell (comperé for the evening), Dame Antoinette Sibley, Darcey Bussell CBE (who had flown in from her home in Australia), Lauren Cuthbertson, Sergei Polunin and Ashley Page. Generous donors of the Appeal attending the Royal Gala included Dame Vivien Duffield and Ricki Gail Conway.
Marguerite Porter and Stephen Wicks performed the Tango from Façade (choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton), Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin (Royal Ballet company) performed the Act 2 Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker and Natasha Oughtred and Jamie Bond (from Birmingham Royal Ballet) danced the Act 1 Pas de Deux from Romeo and Juliet (choreographed by Sir Kenneth Macmillian). Lower School students performed Danse Bohémienne, (choreographed for the event by former student & Royal Ballet First Artist Liam Scarlett), whilst graduate students danced Larina Waltz (choreographed by Ashley Page, Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet & former student of White Lodge).
Dame Antionette Sibley and Darcey Bussell CBE gave contributions and reminiscences.
After the performance, Their Royal Highnesses were introduced to all the performers and contributors before attending a dinner, where they were treated to a specially created performance by The Royal Ballet School’s Dance Partnership and Access Programme featuring 24 young people from two state schools : Sydenham Girls and Forest Hill, dancing with year 10 Royal Ballet School students.
The evening culminated in the graceful display of White Lodge students bidding their guests goodnight with a grand defile, choreographed by Liam Scarlett.
The School still has £2 million to be raised by 2010 to meet the final redevelopment costs.