MK Gallery invites local ballerinas backstage at new exhibition

Posted 13th October 2021

Ballerinas from local dance school, Emily Dee Dance School, sashayed their way
through MK Gallery to hold first position alongside the famous paintings of ballet
dancers by Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) – 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 young dancers, all of whom attend Miss Emily’s ballet lessons, got a ‘behind the scenes’ first look at how Knight expressed her love of ballet, performers and performance in her paintings.

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. Laura Knight, A Panoramic View is the most significant presentation of Knight’s work in more than 50 years and surveys her career spanning almost a century from her fascination with the backstage of ballet and theatre and exuberant portraits of people’s everyday lives, to the depiction of marginalised communities and racial segregation in America.

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).