#TBT: Dame Beryl Grey and Yuri Kondratov in Swan Lake (1958)

December 22, 2022

On December 10, The Royal Ballet announced the passing of English National Ballet president and former artistic director Dame Beryl Grey. At 95, she leaves behind a lasting legacy as a prolific performer and champion of the artform.

Grey (1927–2022) famously debuted the role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake with Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet) on her 15th birthday—a role for which she was lauded throughout her career. As a freelance performer, she later made history as the first British dancer to guest with the Bolshoi Ballet, the Kirov Ballet and Peking Ballet (now National Ballet of China). She was named artistic director of London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) in 1968 after a decade of guesting with the company. She held the position for 11 years.

Grey would go on to receive five honorary degrees and serve in a variety of leadership roles for dance organizations across England, including the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, the British Ballet Organization, the Royal Academy of Dance and more. In 1988, she received her damehood from Queen Elizabeth II honoring her contributions to dance and the country.

In this collection of excerpts from the Bolshoi Ballet’s 1958 performance of Swan Lake, we see Grey display mastery of her epochal role as Odette/Odile alongside partner Yuri Kondratov. With sumptuous port de bras and lines that seem to extend for ages, it’s easy to see why she earned such prestige for her embodiment of the white swan; and whiplike soutenus and indulgent renversés as Odile prove her dynamics and versatility.

Today, we honor her contributions to ballet and celebrate her life, career and legacy this #ThrowbackThursday.