(Dame) Peggy van Praagh


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(b London, 1 Sept. 1910; d Melbourne, 15 Jan. 1990)

British dancer, teacher, and ballet director. She studied with Aimée Phipps, Margaret Craske, Sokolova, Volkova, Karsavina, and de Mille. She made her debut dancing with Anton Dolin's company in London in 1929, performing balletic interludes in revues at the Coliseum. She danced with Ballet Rambert (1933–8) and then with Antony Tudor's London Ballet (1938). She created roles in many of Tudor's important early works: Jardin aux lilas (1936), Dark Elegies (1937), Soirée musicale (1938), and Gala Performance (1938). She was joint director, with Maude Lloyd, of the London Ballet (1939–40) then in 1941 became principal dancer with Sadler's Wells Ballet and in 1946 ballet mistress of Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet. Between 1951 and 1955 she was assistant director of Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet overseeing a period of exceptional creative activity. She also worked as a ballet producer for BBC Television (1949–58). In 1958 she directed the Edinburgh International Ballet; in 1959–60 she was artistic director of the Borovansky Ballet in Australia and in 1962 was invited to become the first artistic director of the newly formed Australian Ballet, where she remained until 1974 (returning for one year, 1978–9). Using the British model to build up the company's repertory and performing standards, van Praagh also ensured that it acquired a distinctive Australian identity. Between 1975 and 1982 she was also a freelance ballet producer and teacher, both at the Royal Ballet School and the Australian Ballet School, acknowledged as one of the world's leading teachers of the Cecchetti method. Author of How I Became a Ballet Dancer (London, 1954) and, with Peter Brinson, The Choreographic Art (London, 1963). DBE 1970.

Subjects: Dance.

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