Dame Beryl Grey’s autobiography is both a personal memoir and the story of twentieth century English ballet told from the point of view of one of its leaders. It is fascinating to compare Peter Wright’s Wrights & Wrongs, which covers a similar ground, yet is utterly different; both writers have outlived most of their contemporaries, but Grey seems much the more discreet of the two.

Grey’s approach is chronological, starting with her birth into a happy and loving family, which instilled religious faith, a strong work ethic and respect for authority and British institutions (she is an unabashed royalist). Part One describes in detail her dancing life, as she quickly worked her way up through the ranks of the Sadler’s Wells company, becoming a principal of the Royal Ballet, before launching herself on an independent career, which included becoming the first Western ballerina to guest with the Bolshoi Ballet. Part Two covers her time as Director of Festival Ballet. (more…)

This book tells the extraordinary story of how Mabinty Bangura from Sierra Leone survived war, famine, cruelty and prejudice to end up dancing with Dutch National Ballet under the name Michaela DePrince.

Born in Sierra Leone, DePrince saw and suffered things that no-one, let alone a child, should experience, from the brutality and misogyny of her own uncle who virtually sold her, to witnessing the murder and mutilation of a beloved school teacher. It is sometimes hard to believe that she really remembers all the conversations that she records (she was so very young at the time), but there is an immediacy about her account that is gripping. (more…)