One Dance UK Mourns the loss of Patron, Dame Gillian Lynne DBE

2 Jul 2018

The inimitable Dame Gillian Lynne DBE, an iconic figure in the world of dance and theatre and Patron of One Dance UK, has died. She made an enormous contribution to the dance sector and is fondly remembered by One Dance UK and the entire dance sector for her enthusiasm, talent, passion and wit.

Dame Gillian Lynne as Patron of One Dance UK's Together for Dance Gala, with Dame Darcey Bussell, Jim Fletcher, Mara Galeazzi, Andrew Hurst and Sue Wyatt

Dame Gillian Lynne as Patron of One Dance UK’s Together for Dance Gala, with Dame Darcey Bussell, Jim Fletcher, Mara Galeazzi, Andrew Hurst and Sue Wyatt

Sue Wyatt, Chair, One Dance UK,  says ‘We are so very sorry to hear that our incredible patron Dame Gillian Lynne has died.  She was enormously helpful in establishing One Dance UK.  We consider ourselves very lucky to have had her support and involvement as patron. Such a loss to the dance and theatre world”.

Dame Gillian Lynne started her career in 1942 at age 16 before joining the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company in 1944 where she became a soloist performing at the newly opened Covent Garden Opera House, as detailed in her autobiography A Dancer in Wartime. Her many roles with the soon-to-be renamed Royal Ballet included the Black Queen in Checkmate, the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty and Queen of the Willis in Giselle.

As 'Black Ballerina' in Balanchine's 'Ballet Imperial', 1951

As ‘Black Ballerina’ in Balanchine’s ‘Ballet Imperial’, 1951


Following her successful performing career as the star dancer at the London Palladium and on early British TV, as well as being Britain’s foremost exponent of jazz dance, Lynne went on to be a leading director/choreographer of her generation. Notable ballet credits include A Simple Man, Lipizzaner and The Brontes for Northern Ballet, Journey for the Bolshoi Ballet, Some You Win for Irek Mukhamedov’s Company and Fool on the Hill for the Australian Ballet.


Dame Gillian achieved her greatest success in the theatre world. Best-known for her ground-breaking work on Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, Lynne directed over 60 productions in the West End and on Broadway, including the UK premiere of Jerry Herman’s Dear World in 2013.  She worked on 11 feature films and hundreds of television productions as producer, director, choreographer or performer.


Dame Gillian Lynne receives a special Olivier Awards for outstanding contribution to theatre, 2013

Dame Gillian Lynne receives a special ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Olivier Award, 2013


Lynne received numerous accolades including two Olivier Awards: the first for Outstanding Achievement for her choreography of Cats in 1981, while in 2013 she was presented with a Lifetime Achievement ‘Special’ Olivier. Other awards include: Vienna’s Silver Order of Merit, Golden Rose of Montreux Award for The Muppet Show, Samuel G. Engel Television Award (USA) for her conceptual drama The Morte d’Arthur, a BAFTA for her dance drama A Simple Man which she directed for BBC TV, a Moliere Award and The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award from the Royal Academy of Dance who elected her Vice-President in 2012. Lynne was honoured with CBE in 1997 and made DBE in the 2014 New Years Honours List for her services to Dance and Musical Theatre, the first woman to be honoured in this way.


Last month, Dame Gillian attended a renaming ceremony where the original home of Cats. The New London Theatre, was renamed the Gillian Lynne Theatre in her honour.

One Dance UK would like to extend our condolances to Dame Gillian’s husband Peter, her family and friends.

Dame Gillian Lynne presenting at the Dance UK 2015 Conference The Future: New Ideas, New Inspirations, introduced by Arlene Phillips. Watch from 40:12.