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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 18:16 GMT
Ballet honours Queen's sister
Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret was President of the Royal Ballet School
The Queen has unveiled a plaque honouring her late sister, Princess Margaret, at a ceremony for the Royal Ballet School's new 18m premises in London's Covent Garden.

The building has been built next to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, which houses the ballet company.

The site has been built specifically to accommodate and train the pupils of the Upper Royal Ballet School, but also contains a studio for public performances.

The plaque, which is in the adjacent Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, commemorates the "dedication, enthusiasm and support" of the princess, who was President of the Royal Ballet School and Royal Ballet Companies for 46 years.

Royal Ballet star Darcey Bussell
Royal Ballet star Darcey Bussell was also a pupil at the school
The Queen met some of the students and staff rehearsing in the Princess Margaret Studio before watching three short performances in the Linden Theatre.

She also met one of the Royal Ballet School's most famous former students, Darcey Bussell, who was rehearsing in the Royal Opera House.

David Norman, chairman of the Royal Ballet School, paid tribute to Princess Margaret, saying: "She was an inspiration and a huge encouragement to us for over 40 years and we were very grateful."

The Queen's visit marks the realisation of a dream of the late Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet School and the two Royal Ballet companies.

The Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House is also home to the ballet company and school
Dame Ninette always wanted the Royal Ballet senior school to have its home next to the company. Until now, the school has been in Baron's Court, West London.

Before her death in 2001, Dame Ninette learnt that plans for such a project were finally under way.

"The school is the bedrock of any company, nurturing, as it does, the dancers and choreographers of the future," Dame Ninette said.

"To those masterminding the project, I send my warmest good wishes and to those who will help make it possible, my heartfelt thanks."

New bridge

Much of the money for the building has come from fundraising initiatives and private donations with a substantial contribution made by the Department for Education.

The new ballet school covers about 42,000 square feet and will be the base for 80 students and their staff.

They will have the use of five dance studios, changing rooms, a gym and dance rehabilitation rooms.

There are also four classrooms for academic work and a library, all of which are contained on four floors.

A bridge connecting the Royal Ballet School with the Royal Opera House has also been built.

The move is part of the Royal Ballet School's five-year plan to develop the school's facilities and programme of training.

The school teaches young dancers for the Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and other top international classical companies.

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