Dame Gillian Lynne, former ballet dancer and famed Broadway choreographer, passed away last night in London at age 92. She began dancing in the 1940's at Sadler's Wells Ballet (later called The Royal Ballet), and rose through the ranks, eventually performing roles created specifically for her by choreographers like Frederick Ashton and Robert Helpmann.
Later, she began to choreograph for notable companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the English National Opera, and the Royal Opera House. She also choreographed the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and even directed a TV episode of The Muppets.
Lynne is perhaps best known for her unique blend of jazz, ballet, and athleticism, showcased in her work as the choreographer of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, as well as his musical The Phantom of the Opera. Her work on Cats earned her an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in a Musical in the U.K., and her choreography for The Phantom of the Opera was honored by a Tony nomination.
Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin spoke to New York publication Playbill about her legacy. “Dame Gillian Lynne’s innovative choreography has dazzled generations of theatregoers and made an indelible mark on musical theatre around the world. The productions she shaped will continue to move and enchant audiences for decades to come. We join her husband Peter and all of her family, friends and colleagues in mourning her passing and in celebrating her remarkable artistry.”
Tonight, Broadway marquees will be dimmed at 6:45pm EST for one minute, and theaters on London's West End (including the Gillian Lynne theater, named for her) will go dark at 7pm GMT to honor her life and contribution to musical theater.