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What’s wrong with ballet?

Ballet used to be popular with both elite and mass audiences. The Royal Ballet was a centre of world ballet and its profits subsidised the Royal Opera. Now nobody cares

By Nadine Meisner   January 1998

No one ever thought that ballet could be as popular as football. But did anyone imagine that things could get so grim? In November 1996, the Midland Bank withdrew its 25-year support for Covent Garden and Birmingham Royal Ballet on the grounds that ballet had become too old-fashioned and narrow in its appeal. Today, ballet’s image is of a middle brow, middle class, mostly female entertainment.

It began as an art for the elite. When Louis XIV danced the role of Apollo and founded the first aca-demy of dance, he was glorifying himself-the Sun King-and his kingdom. Successive Russian rulers…

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