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Dame Marie Rambert

(1888—1982) ballet dancer and founder of the Rambert Dance Company


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1888–1982)

Polish-born British ballet producer, director, and teacher who played a leading part in the establishment of English ballet. She was made a DBE in 1962.

Born in Warsaw, Rambert studied eurhythmic dance with Émile Jacques-Dalcroze (1865–1950) and came to the attention of Sergei Diaghilev in 1913. Joining Diaghilev's Ballets Russes as a teacher of rhythmic technique shortly afterwards, she became an assistant to Vaslav Nijinsky and helped him choreograph L'Après-midi d'un faune and Le Sacre du printemps. After further study with Enrico Cecchetti (1850–1928), Rambert joined the corps de ballet of the Ballets Russes. She came to London to continue her ballet training, staged her first ballet in 1917, and became a British citizen in 1918 following her marriage to playwright and producer Ashley Dukes.

In 1920 Rambert opened a ballet school in London, based upon Cecchetti's teaching methods, and in 1926 she produced her pupil Frederick Ashton's first ballet. Four years later she formed the first permanent English company, the Ballet Club, which later became the Ballet Rambert, and helped to found the influential Camargo Society with Ninette de Valois. Over the next fifty years Rambert built up her reputation as the mother of English ballet and introduced many leading performers and designers, such as Sophie Fedorovitch, Hugh Stevenson, and William Chappell. Among the choreographers she encouraged besides Ashton were Antony Tudor, Andrée Howard, Frank Staff, Walter Gore, and Norman Morrice. Notable dancers of the Ballet Rambert were Pearl Argyle, Diana Gould, Elisabeth Schooling, Prudence Hyman, Maude Lloyd, Celia France, Sally Gilmour, Lucette Aldous, Harold Turner, Peggy van Praagh, Hugh Laing, and Leo Kersley.

The emphasis Rambert placed on British performers did much to revitalize the national ballet and in 1966 the company abandoned its classical repertory in order to concentrate on more innovative works, a trend that continued well after Rambert's retirement as a director. She was a co-author of Dancers of Mercury: The Story of Ballet Rambert (1960) and translator of Ulanova: Her Childhood and Schooldays (1962).

Subjects: Dance.


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