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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 10:51 GMT
Ballet's 50th birthday gala
English National Ballet
The gala marks 50 years of world class ballet
English National Ballet (ENB) celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first performance with a gala concert at the Coliseum in London on Tuesday night.

The concert also marked the 90th birthday of the company's founder, Dame Alicia Markova.

Dame Alicia Markova with Wayne Sleep
English National Ballet's founder Dame Alicia Markova with Wayne Sleep
Shel staged a performance of Michel Fokine's Les Sylphides to open the gala event.

The Duke of York attended, taking the place of Princess Margaret who had to pull out after suffering a possible stroke.

English National Ballet performs almost 200 times a year, entertaining more than 200,000 people annually.

Former dancers with the company returned to dance a selection of Pas de Deux from the last 50 years of the ballet company's repertoire.

Artistic director Derek Deane said: "When Dame Alicia Markova and Sir Anton Dolin performed in stadia and cinemas in the 40s and 50s, they were laying the foundations for a principle that is now referred to as 'accessibility'.

"Since those days, English National Ballet has continued to play a vital role in inspiring new and sustainable interest in ballet throughout this country, often across geographical and social barriers, but always at affordable ticket prices."

Angela Rippon
Angela Rippon is chairman of English National Ballet
Former news reader Angela Rippon has taken over as chairman of the company.

She said the company was a hallmark for superlative standards of classical ballet.

She added that ENB's mission was to develop an "original and popular repertoire, to present the great classics in fresh and original ways, and to keep prices as accessible as possible".

She continued: "English National Ballet is this country's premier touring classical ballet company and we have a large, enthusiastic and dedicated following throughout the English regions."

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