David Gayle MBE

Former Royal Ballet dancer and teacher, David Gayle, founded the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars at
Ilkley College in 1975.

David Gayle MBE and Dame Alicia MarkovaFormer Royal Ballet dancer and teacher, David Gayle, founded the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars at Ilkley College in 1975.

“I saw Dame Alicia Markova dance at St George’s Hall in Bradford when I was 12. I knew from early on that I wanted to be a dancer though I didn’t know much hard work would be involved! But I have had tried to ease the path of others coming through.”

David was the first boy to be taken on to the Teacher Training course at the Royal Ballet School.

“I first went into Ilkley College in 1974, doing a few day non residential courses. I had been using another local hall for classes but it was being painted, so Rod Sawyer suggested I used a room at the College instead. Then it was suggested that I could use the rest of the facilities over the summer to hold residential courses and so the potential just opened up. I used all my contacts from the world of ballet and got them to give masterclasses and exhibitions. We had incredible speakers and lecturers, the best international teachers and dancers, and they believed in what I was doing. I remember the headlines ‘Ilkley gets the ballet greats’ and we did.”

The first residential summer ballet course was officially opened at Ilkley College on 4th August 1975 by Dame Ninette de Valois OM, CH, DBE, founder of The Royal Ballet and The Royal Ballet School. The first masterclass was then taught by Dame Alicia Markova DBE, DMus.

“Our reputation spread and students came from all over the world. They benefited enormously. So many of the students went on to be professional dancers; in ballet companies, in musicals and in contemporary dance.”

David had brought the cream of ballet to Ilkley, originally seeking to encourage those unable to attend classes and auditions in the capital. But following the incredible success of the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars, prima ballerina Merle Park invited David to set up similar seminars in London as the Royal Ballet Summer School in 1987.

“I am so proud of what the YBS achieved, although my big regret was that we left Ilkley when the College closed in 1999. The YBS are still going strong, although I retired 4 years ago. Marguerite Porter has taken it on and is doing a great job.”

Photograph supplied by David Gayle MBE