Local ballerinas invited backstage at new Milton Keynes Gallery exhibition

Ballerinas from a local dance school made their way through MK Gallery to hold first position alongside the famous paintings of ballet dancers by Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970).

Dame Laura Knight is one of the most popular and pioneering English artists of the 20th century and currently the subject of the Gallery’s new exhibition Laura Knight, A Panoramic View (9 October 2021- 22 March 2022).

The ballerinas got a first look at how Knight expressed her love of ballet, performers and performance through art.

Miss Emily, Director of Emily Dee Dance School, was delighted to see the paintings depicting dancers and performers for the first time and said: "What a fantastic opportunity for my dance pupils to see these beautiful paintings.

"They really enjoyed Fay’s short talk about Laura Knight’s work. For some it was their first experience of being in a Gallery and so to see the ballet dancers made it extra special."

Fay Blanchard, Head of Exhibitions, MK Gallery said: "Laura Knight’s work has been in the wings too long: this exhibition puts her centre stage with the spotlight shining brightly on her incredible career. The young ballerinas provided a refreshing frame to Knight’s paintings of dancers and performance artists in this exhibition.

"We’re looking forward to giving Laura Knight all the curtain calls she deserves."

Emily Dee teaches the Ceccehtti method of ballet which was founded by Enrico Ceccehtti (1850-1928) and favours turnout based on normal hip rotation, and pure, strong movement over stylistic flourishes.

After WWI, Laura Knight used to visit Enrico’s dance school in London to observe and sketch the ballet dancers. She drew so quickly he would snatch the drawings to show his pupils what they were doing wrong.

During this time, she met some of the most famous Russian ballet dancers of the day such as Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes with Lydia Lopokova and Anna Pavlova.

Her regular visits to the ballet enabled her to obtain permission to make studies backstage of dancers as they prepared for their performances.

The exhibition includes a gallery dedicated to this part of Knight’s career.

The exhibition is the first in a year-long season of exhibitions by female artists at MK Gallery, including the first major survey of British media artist Ingrid Pollard (11 March – 29 May 2022) and a retrospective of acclaimed 20th century American street photographer Vivian Maier (11 June – 25 September 2022).