Sir Matthew Bourne, one of the most talented choreographers of all time, was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation (QEII) Award last week, presented by Her Majesty the Queen. The award recognises Sir Matthew’s extraordinary gifts and his outstanding service to the art of dance.

This is the Royal Academy of Dance’s most prestigious award. Previous recipients include Sir Frederick Ashton, Rudolph Nureyev, Lady Sainsbury and Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

The award was instituted in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and was first bestowed in 1954 to Dame Ninette De Valois. Since then it has been awarded nearly every year to personalities in recognition of outstanding services to the art of ballet. This year however, was the first time that the award has been presented by the Queen herself.

After the presentation, Darcey Bussell hosted a champagne luncheon in honour of Sir Matthew in the ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park where he was joined by luminaries of the entertainment and dance world, including his own company dancers. Others in attendance were choreographer Arlene Phillips, Strictly Come Dancing judges Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli, designer Jasper Conran and comedienne and actress Dawn French.

In a special ceremony, Sir Matthew also received a citation from New York Times dance critic Alistair Macaulay. Students from the RAD then gave a performance before presenting him with a print of a pair of red ballet shoes. The print, donated by Darcey Bussell, was signed by all the guests in attendance as thanks to Sir Matthew ahead of the world premiere of his new ballet, The Red Shoes.

The ballet will open at Plymouth Theatre Royal in November, then travel to The Lowry in Salford, before becoming the Christmas show for eight weeks at Sadler’s Wells, London. A UK tour will follow in 2017.

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