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A Dancer in Wartime: One girl's journey from the Blitz to Sadler's Wells [Hardcover]

Gillian Lynne
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Nov 2011

Gillian Lynne is one of the world's pre-eminent choreographers, the groundbreaking creative force behind blockbusters such as Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. But she started her career as a ballerina, and learnt to dance alongside Margot Fonteyn, Moira Shearer, Beryl Grey and Frederick Ashton during the Second World War.

A Dancer in Wartime tells the story of Gillian's extraordinary childhood. From Miss Madeleine Sharp's Ballet Class for Young Ladies in Bromley, to being evacuated with her theatre school to rural Leicestershire; from performing in the West End with doodlebugs falling to touring a devastated Europe, the early years were hard, exciting and dramatic. And when the call came to join Sadler's Wells - well, what ballerina hopeful could have asked for more?

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (3 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701185996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701185992
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 273,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"An extraordinary tale" (Daily Telegraph)

"Dance historians will be as charmed by this sidelight on dance as ambitious girls will be inspired by Lynne's description of the dancer's life" (The Times)

"A beautiful tale of a young woman's talent, determination - and star quality" (Baz Bamigboye Daily Mail)

"Wonderfully nostalgic and magical" (Easy Living)

"Gillian's journey through dance is a story of passion and devotion that should be read by everyone, not just dance lovers." (Arlene Phillips)

Book Description

A unique memoir about ballet, the war and a peerless group of dancers

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dancer in Wartime 6 Nov 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Gillian Lynne is a choreographer, who began her career as a ballerina. Her mother took her to the doctor as a child, feeling she was hyperactive. As the author says, if such a thing happened now she would undoubtedly be given a named condition, but, luckily for her, the doctor suggested dance class for all that excess energy. So, Jill (as she was then) headed for Miss Madeleine Sharp's class for young ladies at the Bell Hotel ballroom in Bromley. At ten, she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dancing, but life was interrupted by the sad death of her mother in an accident (her supporter and greatest champion) in 1939 and then the outbreak of war, which led to her father being recalled to the army (he had also fought in WW1).

Without her mother, Jill could not attend the Royal Academy for classes and ran away when evacuated. However, with the help of family members and the support of her father, she auditioned for the Cone Ripman school. This was a theatre school, strong in dance, but weak in other ares of the curriculum. Bombing meant the school had to move at least twice. A chance concert in London, led to her working with Molly Lake at the Ballet Guild. At the end of 1942 she gave up academic education for ever and was asked to change her name. A professional career was beckoning.

This, then, is the story of one girl during wartime. A girl who dodged bombs to make her way across London from her aunts house to dance class. Who was often noticed and approached by those who recognised her talent - she was appalled when her aunt turned down an approach by Ninette de Valois to join her company (Sadler's Wells Ballet and Opera), but they agreed to wait until she was eighteen and ask again.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Memoir of Growing up in the Theatre 28 Nov 2011
The memories of the legendary choreographer of the musical Cats and so much more, told clearly and honestly with the help of the detailed diaries she kept, conjure up the lost pre-war world as well as the perils and excitements of wartime with amazing clarity and detail. Following her life as she survives the tragic loss of her mother in a car crash and her father's call-up into the forces, the unwelcome attentions of a young girl dancer and the welcome ones of a distinguished officer, and graduates through dancing troupes to become part of the Royal Ballet, the volume ends on the day Covent Garden reopened after the war, her twentieth birthday, with her dancing on its stage along with Margot Fonteyn and other famous names. I can't wait to learn about the next 65 years.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Point your feet, not you machine guns! 13 Nov 2011
This is such a moving and vivid account of how a dancer fought the war with courage, determination and discipline! Loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars really interesting 17 Sep 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A fascinating story, I have read biographies of other dancers which include war time, but this gave a different perspective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars perhaps a little sanitized 12 Feb 2012
By Jezabel
They say all autobiography is fiction and all fiction is autobiography. Perhaps the author should have written a novel!

She may have skated round some of the finer points of her growing up in wartime but she was wonderful about Madam and Margot and I am glad of that.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A charming story of Gillian Lynne's early years as a dancer but unfortunately her writing isn't as mesmerising as her choreography and the editor should have been more ruthless. As the title suggests, the book covers a very limited period in time and there are a lot of Lynne's family memories, which although clearly very important to her, aren't as interesting as the stories about the dance world. There is nothing about Lynne's later career - is another volume planned for Cats? If this book could be condensed to three chapters of a longer biography it would be perfect.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Rather flat 15 July 2014
By Joseph
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very simple review of one girl's rise from obscurity to fame as a ballet dancer.

No excitement in the book as each chapter of her training and advancement is told in a deadpan fashion. Even her wartime adventures are related in a matter of fact manner with no excitement as if from a diary.

This was a set book in our book club and I was glad when I had finished it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gillian Lynne 9 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very poignant and delightful rendering of Gillian's life. So interesting from both the dance point of view and the War Time era.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb read for anyone who loves dance - or just enjoys a good book.
A brilliant book. So interesting and moving- delighted she has been made a Dame well deserved. I would thoroughly recommend it. I bought it for three others and they agree.
Published 7 months ago by CAROLE
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories captured
I enjoyed this book so much. Gillian Lynne captures her journey through her early training so well I look forward to the next book.
Published 11 months ago by MR PETER F VALLANCE
4.0 out of 5 stars Ballerina in the Blitz
The paperback copy of the book was the one I read. I loved the memoir, even though it was written by someone who is not a professional writer. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mrs L
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dancer in Wartime
What a wonderful story - and what a wonderful person - full of vitality and optimistic energy - should be an inspiration for budding dancers and a guide to understanding the hard... Read more
Published 14 months ago by M. Maeve
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting tale about the war years and ballet
This book was an easy read and I found it particularly good for picking up now and then and continuing the story, Suitable for a teenager who is into ballet. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Kowhai
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally brilliant and intriguing
This is a must for any dancer and theatre lover. It offers a fascinating insight into the life and early career of one of our greatest choreographers. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Dave Anstee
5.0 out of 5 stars superb read
Gillian Lynne paints a vivd and wonderful picture of her young days. Cannot wait for the next instalment of her autobiography.
Published 18 months ago by
5.0 out of 5 stars My mothers journey as well.
I bought this book for my mother for a Christmas present because she joined the Royal Ballet at the same time as Gillian Lynne. Read more
Published 18 months ago by R. N. Lightowler
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story
Loved it- as an exdancer who went post-wartime to stage school I loved it! WHAT AN AMAXING CAREER SHE HAS.
Published 21 months ago by old Bats
5.0 out of 5 stars Ballet
I bought this book for my grandson who is a ballet dancer, but having sneeked a look at the first few pages, I couldn't put it down. Read more
Published on 28 Jun 2012 by smiley
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