When she was a child, Princess Diana dreamed of being a ballet dancer, and it was not just an idle fancy. She followed her passion throughout her life, even though she did not have the classic ballet dancer’s body.
Diana was tall at five feet ten inches — too tall. But the fact that she could not dance with the English National Ballet or the City Ballet of London did not stop her from supporting them.
In fact, Diana’s support went well beyond giving to a fund. She got to know dancers personally and provided help to them when it was needed. She was particularly concerned about dancers who suffered from eating disorders resulting from their efforts to control their weight.
However, her financial help was not something to be discounted. Richard Shaw, a spokesman for the English National Ballet at the time of Diana’s death, said that whenever Diana attended a fund-raising gala for the company, it would raise about $75,000. That sum was in addition to her personal efforts.
“She knew how to give a performance, to deliver what people expected,” Shaw said of the princess. “I’m sure that’s why she admired dancers, as well as being genuinely fond of them.”
Often, Diana’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, would go to the ballet with their mother. Rather than sit in the royal box, they would take regular seats and, during intermissions, have ice cream.
Diana did not stop taking ballet lessons when she was a child. Even though she knew she would not dance professionally, she took lessons up again after she married the Prince of Wales. She realized her dream at least in part when she danced a jazz routine with Wayne Sleep, Royal Ballet principal, at a Friends of the Royal Opera House gala in 1986.
Following Diana’s death in 1997, Peter Schaufuss developed a full-length ballet called Diana — The Princess. Schaufuss was artistic director of the English National Ballet when Princess Diana was the company’s patron.
The artistic director of the City Ballet of London, Harold King, said about Diana that she “got joy out of associating with dancers. She wanted to be part of our world, and she was.” Dance was just one more aspect of life that Diana embraced with passionate intensity.
Diana, A Celebration, opens at Union Station Kansas City on March 4, 2011, and runs through June 12, 2011. More than 500 items, including the princess’s wedding gown, will be on display in nine galleries in the Bank of America Gallery. The exhibition is open six days a week, and tickets are available for as little as $10 for Union Station members through TicketMaster and ticketmaster.com.