Two grandes dames of classical ballet have ridiculed repeated claims that today's dancers are driven to exhaustion and starvation and say pushing them to the limit is the nature of the art.
There is concern in the industry about gruelling schedules, eating disorders and pressure on dancers to stay unnaturally thin. But Lynne, 87, a leading soloist who became one of the
Emphasising that ballet is not a "soft touch", Lynne said: "I don't buy this new thing that everybody says they're overworked. Dance is a hard world. You can't be pushed enough. I've always had to watch my food. There's nothing wrong with it. Most dancers want to be slim. Quite honestly, dancers have to diet. You have to be underweight."
Grey, 86, one of the
Dancers can almost be too cosseted, she feels: "Dance is all about energy. The more you dance, the more you build up that strength and resilience to accidents. You have to be careful not just to roll up to a masseur the moment you've got a tight calf or something."
Grey, below right, acknowledged the technical abilities of today's dancers, but added: "There doesn't seem to be as much depth of spirit and soul. It's much more acrobatic. People want to see millions of pirouettes and legs going remarkably high. It's a bit more like a circus, and the depth of feeling that one tried to express [previously] isn't always there. You find it in one or two dancers. I think it reflects society. We're a much more superficial society . . . Even though art does reflect its age, I would love to see less accent perhaps on technique and more feeling. I often come away impressed [with] what I've seen, but it hasn't moved me."
Lynne ridiculed health and safety restrictions on dance: "There's an awful lot of holding back now which I don't agree with. The theatre is about danger, risk and excitement." She recalled dancing 14 hours a day: "In our day, we rehearsed all day at Hammersmith town hall. We didn't have rehearsal rooms like [today]. Then we leapt on the tube, staggered to
She told her father that they never got a rest, and he bought her a good mattress. "We were allowed 10 minutes on it each," she said. "We had this wonderful cockney dresser. 'Right, Ms Lynne, you've had your 10.' They've got green rooms now, darling. They've got lovely places and cafes. I'm only saying that it was possible to do without [facilities]."
Lynne, pictured below left, a leading soloist with Sadler's
Grey had a glittering career as a ballerina. After the
They will appear in Ealing today and on Saturday respectively and will be interviewed on stage by
Despite their supreme skill, they earned a pittance compared with today. Grey said: "We started on pounds 14.50 a week. When I left I was only earning pounds 18 [about 2.5 times the
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