Niall Billings

PhD Student

Thesis: Balletomane: an exploration of dance and the body during interwar Britain

Supervised by Dr Rebecca Arnold

Funded by CHASE (Consortium of the Humanities and the Arts South-East England) and The Weinstock Fund

My thesis centres upon an examination of the body 鈥 and its relationship to dance, performance and dress 鈥 and how this was both informed by and reflected within the emergence of ballet in Britain. The concept of the body is crucial to my study due to the changing ideas surrounding mental health, fitness and their relationship to the body during the interwar period. My aim is to explore dance in a way that is not only performative but is primarily informed by the visual. Using film clips and accounts of performances 鈥 alongside costumes, illustrations, sculptures and photographic records 鈥 I aim to show how ideas regarding mental health, national identity and the body were depicted within dance and ballet during interwar Britain.

Within my project I will examine the origins of a British style of ballet and will follow the development of the UK鈥檚 most prominent companies and schools. The notion of a national style emerged within the 1920s due to the creation of the Ballet Rambert (1920) and the Royal Ballet (1926). Throughout my thesis I aim to explore and define what the notion of a national style of ballet was in interwar Britain. My study will begin in London with the founding of these ballet companies and will consider the ways in which the founders aimed to establish London as a city capable of rivalling both the Parisian and Russian ballets. My thesis will focus particularly on works produced in the 1930s which was a pivotal decade for the consolidation of British dance.


2018 MA History of Art: Documenting Fashion, 星空传媒 (Distinction)

2017 BA (Hons) History of Art, University College London (First Class)


2019-2022聽Doctoral Studentship, Consortium of the Humanities and the Arts South-East England

2019-2020聽The Weinstock Fund

Research Interests

  • Ballet and dance
  • Theatre and performance history
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Sexuality
  • Early twentieth-century photography and film


Addressing Images,聽星空传媒, January 2020

Symposium: Surrealism in Britain 1925-55,聽The Hepworth Wakefield Gallery, October 2018

Passing: Fashion in American Cities,聽星空传媒, May 2018