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Dancer Needed To Move To Think


Dame Gillian Lynne is Broadway royalty. She choreographed "Cats," "Phantom Of The Opera." Today she's 88, still dancing and still happily married.

DAME GILLIAN LYNNE: And he is 27 years younger than I am. So don't let me ever hear that you shouldn't marry a man younger than yourself. That's a load of bollocks (laughter).

SIMON: But Gillian Lynne's early life contains a valuable lesson about creativity - from NPR's TED RADIO HOUR and writer Sir Ken Robinson.


SIR KEN ROBINSON: Gillian and I had lunch one day. I said, how'd you get to be a dancer? And she said - it was interesting - when she was at school she was really hopeless.

LYNNE: I told Ken that my mom - at the age, I think I was 7 - would take me to the doctor because she was at the end of her tether.


ROBINSON: The school - in the '30s - wrote her parents, said, we think Gillian has a learning disorder.

LYNNE: Her attention span is very bad. She cannot stop moving. We call her Wriggle Bottom.


ROBINSON: I think now they'd say she had ADHD, but this was the 1930s and ADHD hadn't been invented, you know, at this point.


ROBINSON: Anyway she went to see this specialist - so this oak-paneled room and she was there with her mother and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school.

LYNNE: He was so astute, this man. He'd been noticing me and noticed that I was trying to take in 98 things when there were only 50 to take in and all of that. And...


ROBINSON: The doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, Gillian, I've listened to all these things that your mother's told me. I need to speak to her privately. He said, wait here, we'll be back, we won't be very long.

And they went and left her. But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk. And when they got out the room he said to her mother, just stand and watch her.

LYNNE: And the minute they'd gone, I leaped up. I leaped on his desk, I leaped off his desk. I danced all around the room. I had the most fabulous time.


ROBINSON: And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother.

LYNNE: And he said - he immortalized; I really owe my whole career, in a way, and I suppose my life to this man - he said, there is nothing wrong with your child. She's a born dancer.




ROBINSON: Take her to a dance school. So she did. I can't tell you, sir, how wonderful was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me, people who couldn't sit still, people who had to move to think - who had to move to think. She became a soloist. She had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet. She eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School, met Andrew Lloyd Webber. She's been responsible for some of the most successful theater productions in history. She's given pleasure to millions and she's a multimillionaire. Somebody else might've put her on medication and told her to calm down.

Now, I think...


LYNNE: I mean, he saw an energy - and I happened to be possessed of one of the most unusual energies - and he saw it. Now, how seldom is that?

SIMON: Dame Gillian Lynne. More stories about creativity this weekend on the TED RADIO HOUR.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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