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About the book
  • Published: 16 January 2013
  • ISBN: 9780099555773
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $27.99

A Dancer in Wartime

The touching true story of a young girl's journey from the Blitz to the Bright Lights

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

Gillian Lynne is one of the world’s most eminent choreographers, the creative force behind groundbreaking blockbusters such as Cats and 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. Hers was a generation of exceptional British talent, dancing under the direct influence not only of Anna Pavlova and Diaghilev but also the Second World War.

Greasepaint and Doodlebugs tells the story of Gillian’s childhood, an extraordinary combination of single-minded dedication to the barre and dealing with the day-to-day difficulties and very real dangers of the war. From Miss Madeleine Sharp’s Ballet Class for Young Ladies in Bromley, where she first met Beryl Grey, to being shipped off with fifty other mad-keen dancers when the Cone Ripman school was evacuated to rural Leicestershire, to panto tours around the war-torn provinces and performing over the sound of falling bombs, the early years were demanding and dramatic. And when the call came to join Sadler’s Wells – well, what ballerina hopeful could have asked for more?

This is a portrait of childhood, dedication and commitment like no other. Eye-opening, inspiring and moving, it charts the struggles and joys of reaching for the top of a profession that knows no limits, during a time of immeasurable suffering but also national pride and hope.

  • Pub date: 16 January 2013
  • ISBN: 9780099555773
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $27.99

About the Author

Gillian Lynne

Gillian Lynne is a British ballerina, dancer, actor, theatre director, television director and choreographer, best known for her iconic choreography of Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. She was born in Bromley, Kent, in 1926. At the age of ten she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dancing, after which she joined the Cone Ripman School before being selected to join Molly Lake's Ballet Guild and Ninette de Valois's Sadler's Wells. As part of what would soon become the Royal Ballet, she was renowned for her portrayal of the Black Queen in de Valois's Checkmate, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle and in roles created for her by Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann. Her film, television and stage credits include many long-running West End and Broadway shows, productions for the RSC and English National Opera and The Muppets. She continues to produce television, film and stage productions. In 2013 she received a Special Award at the Oliviers.

Praise for A Dancer in Wartime

“Gillian's journey through dance is a story of passion and devotion that should be read by everyone, not just dance lovers”

Arlene Phillips

“A beautiful tale of heartbreak, talent, determination and star quality”

Daily Mail

“Wonderfully nostalgic and magical”

Easy Living

“A charming and affecting memoir”

Sunday Express, Books of the Year

“An extraordinary tale”

Sarah Crompton, Daily Telegraph

“From the Blitz to Sadler's Wells, this is a charming portrait of passion and dedication, set against the difficulties of war”

Woman & Home

“A captivating story beautifully told ... and what an inspiration for anyone who dreams of a life on the stage”

Cat Deeley

“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 as an amalgam of "the Impossible and the Spiritual all wrapped up with a ribbon of passion”

Iain Finlayson, The Times

“Sincere and unpretentious... She paints [...] a picture of austerity Britain in which ballet was a supremely glamorous career path.”

Rupert Christiansen, Literary Review

“A charming and moving portrait of a wartime childhood and an extraordinary account of what it takes to make it on stage ... I couldn't put it down”

Elaine Paige

“An intriguing and moving account of a young girl's balletic ambitions during wartime. Wonderfully readable, spirited and honest”

Derek Jacobi

“I loved this book ... her energy, enthusiasm and passion are present in every line, and her commitment to the theatre and her determination to excel make for a fascinating and thoroughly absorbing read.”

Dame Monica Mason, Director of the Royal Ballet

“This is a remarkable book which I read overnight. It's gripping, touching, eye-opening and pitch perfect about a period of time almost lost from view. Gillian Lynne's tenacity's palpable from the outset. Definitely one to savour and treasure.”

Gloria Hunniford

“In A Dancer in Wartime, Gillian Lynne canters through her amazing experiences like the thoroughbred she is”

Sir Ian McKellen

“A warm, affectionate portrait of the ballet world, and of success tinged with sadness”

Sally Morris, Daily Mail



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