Shoes, coups and tutus: A new exhibition reveals the story of The Royal Ballet

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The Independent Culture

Things can get far more dangerous for ballerinas in The Royal Ballet than jaw-dropping ballet lifts. Not only was Margot Fonteyn involved in a plot with Fidel Castro to overthrow Panama's government in 1959, thrown into prison for 24 hours (and apparently given fresh flowers everyday), but she was also locked into the hold of a boat in 1940, while escaping from the Germans, during a Royal Ballet tour of Holland.

A new exhibition, Invitation to the Ballet: Ninette de Valois and the story of The Royal Ballet, charts the company since the late 1920s to the present day. It is the largest Royal Ballet exhibition outside of London, and is hosted by the Lowry in Salford, where it pays tribute to The Royal Ballet's founder Ninette de Valois, formerly a dancer with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, who went on to found not just The Royal Ballet, but also the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School.

Rehearsal and backstage photographs include the ballerina Anya Linden mending her ballet shoes on the side of the stage, whilst performing Kenneth MacMillan's ballet Agon in 1958. Fonteyn's Firebird tutu in 1954, as well as the Royal Ballet's first ballerina Alicia Markova's Giselle tutu from 1948, are displayed. There are some unseen LS Lowry drawings, which are thought to be influenced by his love of ballet.

Even Fonteyn's former dressing room at the Royal Opera House is recreated, complete with her Odette tutu from the 1952 production of Swan Lake, as well as make-up, a mascot, pink silk ballet tights and her monogrammed travelling case.

From 23 October (