Music: The Royal's Grande Dame

As the cloud-soft "swans" of England's Royal Ballet last week skimmed through a rehearsal of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, a small woman with grey sculptured hair clapped her hands to halt the piano in the pit of the Metropolitan Opera House. "What on earth are the swans doing? Really!" She asked in a voice edged with impatience. "Movements on strong beats, please. You understand, don't you?" And "Isn't this lighting brighter than in the first act? Why?"

Ninette de Valois has been casting commands in the form of such darting questions ever since she singlehandedly...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!