A brief history of the Faculty of Dance: the Addlestone years

In July 1953 the Art of Movement Studio (now the Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban) moved from Manchester to Addlestone in Surrey. It moved into a site that had previously been occupied by a choir school called ‘St Mary-of the-Angels’. The site had been purchased by William Elmhirst, son of the wealthy philanthropists Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, owners of Dartington Hall in Devon. William or “Bill” Elmhirst had been captivated by Rudolf Laban and his teaching at Dartington and was keen to support his activities. He  purchased the Addlestone site for £15,000 for Laban and Lisa Ullmann.

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Photograph of Diane Davis at the door of the main house at the the Art of Movement Studio, Addlestone, 1958. Photographer: ?Marion North. [RefNo: LC/A/14/2/177]

For the next twenty years, the Studio at Addlestone was devoted to training teachers who would serve or were already serving in schools and teacher-training colleges. (Willson, p.71)

The document below is part of the Studio prospectus sent out to students in the 1960s, outlining the courses the Studio ran.

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(RefNo: LA/A/5/11/1/7-8)

In 1962 Margery Weekes, a PE teacher at Catford County Girls School, enrolled at the Art of Movement Studio on the one year Special Course.

Here Margery describes some of the teaching she received at the Studio. She mentions Lisa Ullmann teaching effort actions, and Valerie Preston-Dunlop who taught ‘space’ and ‘scales’:

[RefNo: D31/3]

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s the number of full-time students at the Studio averaged just under 80 per year (Willson, p.72) but the total number of people it reached through its short courses and summer courses ran into the thousands.

Marion North had first come to train at the Art of Movement Studio in 1951 when it was still based in Manchester. She became an assistant to Rudolf Laban and Lisa Ullmann and remained with them at the Studio until 1958. She left in order to widen her experience and worked with factories and communities, applying Rudolf Laban’s ideas. In the mid-1960s she was appointed head of the Movement and Dance Department at Sidney Webb College. In 1972 Marion was offered and took on the Headship of the Movement Department at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London and in 1973 she also took over leadership of the Art of Movement Studio at Addlestone when Lisa Ullmann retired.LC-A-17-14-3-16web

Photograph of Marion North, 1980s. Photographer: Tony Nandi [RefNo: LC/A/17/14/3/16]

The text  ‘In just order move: The progress of the Laban Centre for Music and Dance 1946-1996′ by F.M.G. Willson describes in detail all the political machinations whereby the Art of Movement Studio at Addlestone came under the responsibility of Goldsmiths’ College in the 1970s. Suffice to say that with the help of a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation, and the promise of renovated old school premises at New Cross to be made available, Goldsmiths’ commited themselves to selling the site at Addlestone and moving the Studio to Laurie Grove, New Cross, London in September 1976 (Willson, p.177).

Our next blog post celebrating our 70th anniversary will follow the Art of Movement Studio’s move to Laurie Grove, New Cross and the fundamental changes carried out by Marion North which would drive the institution forward to becoming the Laban Centre and ultimately the Faculty of Dance at Trinity Laban.

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Willson, F.M.G., 1997, In Just Order Move: The progress of the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance 1946-1996, The Athlone Press, London

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