Friday, 31 July 2009
Darcey Bussell visits the Museum in May 2009 - Photo: Patrick Baldwin
At the heart of Richmond Park lies White Lodge, a 17th Century Royal Hunting Lodge which has been home to The Royal Ballet Lower School since 1955.
The School is a surprisingly interesting local resource centre, and although a working School for the majority of the year, public access is allowed for certain events and to visit their new Ballet Resource Centre.
As part of the extensive re-development of the building and as a result of a specific £350,000 fundraising campaign, The White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre is the UK’s first permanent museum dedicated to classical ballet. It is all the more unique because of its setting – housed as it is within the Lodge and with easy access for local residents. A visit to the museum can easily be combined with a walk in the Park or with afternoon tea at nearby Pembroke House. The museum is designed to offer all visitors an insight into the development of ballet, and demonstrates The Royal Ballet School’s commitment to creating greater access opportunities for the wider community.
Tutu Display - photo Brian Slater
The School’s past graduates and future stars include Sir Anthony Dowell, Dame Antoinette Sibley, Darcey Bussell CBE, & Sergei Polunin.
Earlier this year, the School’s Vice President, Lady Sarah Chatto, opened the museum, dedicating it to the memory of her late Mother, HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. The Princess was President of The Royal Ballet from 1956 until her death in 2002.
The £22 million White Lodge Redevelopment Appeal was launched in 2005 in order to repair and restore White Lodge to its former magnificence and to extend its life. From 1955, its constant and rigorous use as a ballet school had left it urgent need of repair and upgrade to meet new statutory standards for Health and Safety and Child Protection. The new facilities enable the School to deliver a dynamic and harmonious fusion of academic and social education, with the achievement of excellence in dance as its primary focus.
Pointe Shoe display - photo Brian Slater
Through a series of films, artefacts and interactive resources, (including pointe shoes which you can touch), the Museum enables visitors to trace the history of White Lodge from 1727 to its present day position as one of the world’s finest ballet schools and at the same time, follow the parallel history of classical ballet. A major focus of the Museum is the life and legacy of Dame Ninette de Valois - one of the key visionaries of British ballet and the Founder of The Royal Ballet.
White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre
Entry to the White Lodge Museum is free of charge, but visitors must register in advance. Normal opening hours during term time are Tuesdays and Thursdays 13.30-15.30, with alternative times available for groups or special visits. Please call 020-8392 8440.