Dame Gillian Barbara Lynne

(20 February 1926)

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Gillian Lynne was born in Bromley, Kent, as Gillian Barbara Pyrke. She is a British ballerina, dancer, choreographer, actress, and theatre/television director.  At age 87, she was made a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2014 New Year Honours List.

While dancing for Molly Lake’s Company at the People’s Palace, Lynne was spotted by Ninette de Valois and asked to join Sadler’s Wells Ballet during World War II. With the opening of the Royal Opera House after the War she received her first major solo in Sleeping Beauty on the night of her 20th birthday. She went on to become an admired dramatic ballerina in the soon to be renamed Royal Ballet, renowned for her Black Queen in de Valois’s Checkmate, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle and in roles created for her by Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann.

She was instrumental in the development of jazz dance in Britain and her distinctive style – a fusion of classical and jazz – led to her ground-breaking work on the world famous “Cats” (Olivier Award- London, Moliere Award- Paris) and also on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s worldwide hit “The Phantom of the Opera” for which she provided the musical staging and choreography as well for its 25th anniversary.

In her long career as a choreographer and director, Lynne has worked on many productions including those from the Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company and English National Opera as well as many West End and Broadway shows.

Gillian has received numerous accolades including two Olivier Awards – the first for Outstanding Achievement (Choreography of Cats – 1981), and in 2013 she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Royal Opera House. Other notable awards include Vienna’s Silver Order of Merit, Golden Rose of Montreux Award for the staging of The Muppet Show, The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award and in 2012 she was elected Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Dance. Gillian received a CBE in 1997 and in 2014 she was elevated to DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

2014 sees Gillian stage a new production of Sir Robert Helpmann’s ballet Miracle in the Gorbals for the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Gillian will also have a wellness and fitness regime DVD released entitled Longevity through Exercise, and she will be writing the sequel to her recent memoir A Dancer In Wartime, which is soon to be made into a feature film. She has been married to Peter Land since 1980. She was previously married to Patrick Back (1949).