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"Ballet is my work," she said, "while folk dance is my greatest pleasure." As such her legacy is twofold: she brought Western ballet to China and Chinese folk dance to the wider world.In 1989 she was the founder director of the London-based Chinese Dance & Mime Theatre Company.

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This emphasis, though, earned it disapproval when the Cultural Revolution was launched in 1966.

Ballet found itself classified as "the weed of capitalism" and the academy was closed for six years, until 1973.

During the 1940s she taught modern dance as well as performing in solo and group recitals.

She also made a special study of Chinese folk music and dance, pioneering field research into different ethnic traditions. Yao Drum, for example, was inspired by the Yao mountain people, and Ba'an Xianzi was a Tibetan dance.

She was born in Trinidad, to an expatriate Chinese family, in 1916.

In 1930, after studying dance in Trinidad, she came to England.She deserves much of the credit for the founding in Beijing of a national ballet company, performing a classical Western repertoire as well as works inspired by indigenous culture.It is some measure of her achievement that a bronze bust of her is displayed in London, in the reception hall of the headquarters of the Royal Academy of Dance.Dai Ailian continued as Principal of the Beijing Ballet Academy until 1964 and in 1963-64 also held the title of director of the ballet company.She was marginalised during the decade of the Cultural Revolution, but from 1976 to 1980 was once more Director of the Central Ballet of China (also called the National Ballet of China), later becoming artistic adviser.Dai Ailian, dancer, choreographer and director: born ; died Beijing 9 February 2006.

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