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A Dancer in Wartime
on 13 May 2013
This is the part autobiography of the dancer and choreographer Gillian Lynne - part in that it tells the story of just her early life from her birth in 1926 through her late teens. Gillian describes what can only be thought of as an idyllic childhood. Sadly that was to be interrupted in 1939 when her mother was tragically killed in a car accident. Her father was a serving officer in the War, so she was brought up a series of proxies - kindly and caring - but proxies nevertheless. Her mother was fortunate at least to witness and encourage Gillian's early talent for dance, but it is unlikely she would ever have imagined her spectacular progress in the years immediately after her death, from minor dance companies, through Sadler's Wells and to the Royal Opera House, dancing with and for famous names such as Ninette de Valois, Margot Fonteyn, Robert Helpmann and Frederick Ashton.
In later years of course, Gillian blossomed as a choreographer and I so vividly remember my visit to see Lloyd-Webber's musical 'Cats' in the 1980s, which she so brilliantly mastered.
Normally, I would never have been drawn to this book, but I was recently given it by an uncle, who remembered my telling him many years ago that a childhood friend of mine was a cousin of Gillian. I had no idea whether that was true, but I am a keen genealogist and have now traced the connection via my childhood friend's father (Phil Kirby) who was a clarinetist in Victor Sylvester's Dance Band. My friend was in fact a step-cousin, Gillian's father later marrying Phil's sister. But that, I must confess is a diversion which nobody reading this will have any interest in!!
'A Dancer in Wartime' is a charming book - not spectacular literature - but told by a great lady with great talent. And a story of someone who despite early tragedy, and the ravages of wartime, but with the love and support of her father, uncles and aunts and friends, achieved spectacular success in her early years