Ninette de Valois Festival - Blessington hosts celebration of Ninette’s life

By Hayden Moore

A festival celebrating the life of internationally acclaimed dancer, artist, choreographer, poet, and director of classical ballet, Ninette de Valois took place in Blessington last weekend.

The inaugural Ninette de Valois Festival of Dance brought together a collection of the arts in the artists hometown of Blessington, culminating with the unveiling of a memorial to her last Sunday.

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Born in Baltyboys House in June 1898, this month marks the 120th anniversary of her birth.

The festival opened with a Gala Tribute titled ‘Invitation to the Dance’ in the Tramway Theatre on Friday, June 29, featuring guest dancers from Cork City Ballet, and a dramatization of de Valois’ poetry.

A second event titled ‘Madame’ took place on Saturday. This event was a roundtable discussion about Dame Ninette de Valois, with special guests from the Royal Ballet School and Dance Ireland, Joanna Banks was also in attendance, who is one of the last to have danced with de Valois.

The jam-packed Saturday continued at 2.30pm in Russborough House when there was an Afternoon Tea Dance to complement the performance from Ballymore Eustace Concert Band, who performed dance hits that span five decades – starting with the 1920’s.

Saturday’s event’s finished up with a repeat of ‘Invitation of the Dance’ at the Tramway Theatre.

Then, on the final day of the three-day long festival, there was a ceremony around the unveiling of the Ninette de Valois memorial on the Main Street in Blessington, topped off with an afternoon of music and dancing festivities in the Main Square.

This year’s festival was a collaborative effort between Interpretive Artists Ireland and Blessington and District Forum, and is sure to be the first of many festivals to come in Blessington that will celebrate Dame Ninette de Valois’s place in the community and remind those of the legacy she has left behind.

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