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New Year Honours: Choreographer Gillian Lynne is made a Dame

Story by Jack Foley

VETERAN choreographer Gillian Lynne has been made a dame for services to dance and musical theatre in the New Year Honours.

Lynne was one of several theatre luminaries to be included among the 2014 New Year’s Honours list, along with Penelope Keith and Angela Lansbury.

The 87-year-old has enjoyed a dance career spanning seven decades and is seen as a seminal influence on British dance and musical theatre.

She began her career in 1942 at the age of 16 before joining the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company where she became a soloist performing at the newly opened Covent Garden Opera House.

Since then, she has become best-known for her ground-breaking work with the leading lights of modern theatre, including Lord Lloyd Webber on Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.

She has also directed over 50 productions in the West End and on Broadway, including the recent West End premiere of Jerry Herman’s Dear World in 2013.

Her work extends beyond the stage to 11 feature films, including Man of La Mancha and Yentl, and over 50 television productions.

Lynne has received numerous accolades including two Olivier Awards, the first for Outstanding Achievement for her Choreography of Cats in 1981 and the second, this year (2013), being a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Royal Opera House.

2014 will see Lynne stage a new production of Sir Robert Helpman’s ballet Miracle in the Gorbals for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, which will be part of a BBC documentary on dance during the Second World War.

She will also be writing the sequel to her recent memoir, A Dancer In Wartime, which is soon to be made into a feature film.

Commenting on her honour, long-time collaborator Lord Lloyd-Webber said: “I am thrilled that the grand lady of British musical theatre has got the recognition she deserves. Gillie was already a legend when I was at school! Without Gillie my Cats would never have seen the stage

Lynne herself told the BBC that she was “deeply humbled” by her DBE, saying: “Passion for my art has been the motivating factor throughout my career, but for Her Majesty the Queen and the Cabinet Office to deem what I have done to be worthy of this accolade is an honour.”

Other recipients

Actor Michael Crawford has been elevated from OBE to CBE for charitable and philanthropic services, while veteran entertainer Nicholas Parsons is made an OBE for his services to charity.

Crawford, another regular Lord Lloyd-Webber collaborator (most notably in The Phantom of The Opera, has admitted that keeping news of his honour a secret had proved difficult.

Parsons, 90, best known for presenting TV quiz Sale Of The Century and for his role as host of Radio 4’s Just A Minute, told the BBC: “I think honours are a wonderful thing to receive if you have worked hard and that is recognised. I don’t understand these people who are pompous and say they don’t want it.”

Acclaimed Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, who is a regular on the London stage, is made a CBE for services to ballet.

Acosta has danced with many companies, including the English National Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and has been a permanent member of The Royal Ballet since 1998.

He has also featured in the moves New York, I Love You and this year’s Day of the Flowers.

Producer Nick Allott, a long-time collaborator of Cameron Mackintosh, has been made an MBE, as is Theatre By the Lake’s executive director Patric Gilchrist.

Related: Penelope Keith and Angela Lansbury lead acting recipients

Katherine Jenkins leads music recipients

Choreographer Gillian Lynne is made a Dame

Chris Corbould heads film recipients