Keeping fit with the Laban Archive

We’ve been having a bit of a ‘keep fit’ theme in the archive recently. Felicity Croydon, archive assistant, has been cataloguing a box of papers from the Keep Fit Association and Central Council of Physical Recreation and came across this gem of a book featuring exercises with Eileen Fowler.

Keep Fit Collection5Keep Fit Collection4

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The Keep Fit Association’s exercises are based on Rudolf Laban’s principles.

And Ann Lewis, one of our inspiring ‘Retired not Tired’ archive volunteers found a booklet of exercises sent to Peter Brinson, former Head of Postgraduate studies at Laban, from the ‘Laurance Institute of Health and Stamina Ltd’ in the 1940s.

Ann Lewis with keep fit diagram2Ann Lewis with keep fit letter

We’re looking forward to trying some of these out in the office!

Both these items will be available to view soon on the archive catalogue

We’ve reached a total of 17,000 searchable catalogue records on the Laban Archive catalogue!

Jean Tiguely

And the 17,000th record is for a photograph of Jean Tinguely, photographed by Reg Wilson. Tinguely was a Swiss painter and sculptor, best known for his kinetic art in the Dada tradition, officially known as metamechanics. His most famous sculpture was a self-detonating one called Homage to New York (1960) which only partially self destructed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City!

The photograph is one of c50,000 photographs held in the Peter WIlliams Collection in the Laban Archive and was catalogued by our dedicated archive volunteer, Sara Manazza. What a dynamo! Search for the photograph on our online archive catalogue

Our Retired not Tired Dance for Health archive volunteers present…

‘A man of words’ – a glimpse into the Peter Brinson Collection.


Jane Mandlik, Ann Lewis and Hilary Ball with the Peter Brinson exhibition.

What do Prince Philip, Nina and her five hats, afternoon tea with Ninette de Valois and a napkin outlining a Marxist vision of gayness have in common? They are all feaured in our current exhibition on Peter Brinson, former Head of Postgraduate Studies at what was then the Laban Centre. Our intrepid archive volunteers have been delving into the 115 boxes of the Peter Brinson Collection held in the Laban Archive, sorting and listing as they go. They have chosen their favourite items from their boxes for the display, which is up outside the Laban Library and Archive in the Creekside building until the end of the week. Take a look

New archive boxes for Transitions Dance Company Archive


Sara Manazza, one of our fantastic archive volunteers in the Laban Archive has been very busy lately constructing 105 flat pack archive boxes. She has been transferring the administrative papers of Transitions Dance Company into them, taking out old paper clips and staples and replacing them with brass ones as she goes. All Sara’s work will help to preserve the Transitions Dance Company archive for future students and researchers to use.¬† If you would like to see what we have in the archive, have a search of the archive catalogue or come and see us. And if you would like to help Sara in the archive, contact us at

“She felt the air with her skin” – Notes from the archive

Gill James, a member of our scholarly ‘Retired not Tired’ archive volunteer team, found the following quote in a letter from John Steer to Peter Brinson. It mentions a conversation he was having with Anne Dorothea Hewer (nee Hiatt), former chairperson of what was to become the Scottish Ballet. She was having dinner with the choreographer Antony Tudor and she asked him what he thought was so special about Isadora Duncan:

‘Physicality’, he said. ‘She felt the air with her skin’

And Jane Mandlik, also from our volunteer team, found the following quote from John Locke, quoted by Peter Brinson in notes he was making for a book:

‘Dancing, being that which gives graceful motions all the life and, above all things, manliness and a becoming confidence to young children, I think cannot be learned too early … Nothing appears to me to give children so much confidence and behaviour, and so to raise them to the conversation of those above their years, as dancing.’

These and many more papers can be found in the Peter Brinson Collection, currently being listed by our volunteers and being made available on our catalogue – have a browse!

Swans and wilis in the Peter Brinson Collection

Our intrepid senior archive volunteers came across some interesting snippets in their Peter Brinson boxes this week:

Hilary Ball found a letter to Peter Brinson from Claire de Robilant talking in 1984 about where the British Council dance  library should go,

Sykes apparently thought that the Company at The Place would read, but they hardly ever go in the Library. And of course “ballet books” are not Robin [Howard]’s delight, “ballet is only “Swans and Wilis”

Ann Lewis found the following notes by Peter Brinson for an obituary, we think probably for a certain Rudolf Nureyev,

A sexual image of masculine macho attraction in photographs. No dancer before has done this. Prodigious sex appeal and sensual appeal to men and women

And coming back down to earth, Jane Mandlik found some notes Brinson was writing on the history of dance in education, showing just how far back it goes,

The dancing master an important element from the Renaissance when he came particularly into his own.

Importance of dancing in education began to be reflected in English education in the work of educationists such as Francis Bacon

Importance of [John] Weaver as theoretician. Weaver [wrote] Anatomical and Mechanical Lectures upon Dancing, 1721

Jane said that perhaps we can see Weaver as a forerunner of Rudolf Laban? If you would like to look at any of the material our stalwart volunteers are finding, browse the Peter Brinson Collection at

Volunteer archiving group in the Laban Archive

For the past six months or so an intrepid group of members of the ‘Retired Not Tired’ dance for health class have been volunteering in the Laban Archive every Tuesday afternoon. They have been working on the Peter Brinson Collection. Peter Brinson was head of postgraduate studies at Laban in the 1980s and before that had been the director of Ballet for All which took ballet out into the provinces of the UK to new audiences. The plucky volunteers are sorting through the 114 boxes of the collection, taking out staples and adding brass paperclips, rehousing the collection in new folders and boxes, and listing the contents of the boxes. The lists are being added to the Laban Archive catalogue (see so that everyone can see what is in the collection and so it can be used by students and researchers. Take a look! and if you fancy trying your hand at volunteering in the archive, contact the Archivist at


This photograph features from left to right Sheila Hartley, Ann Lewis, Gill James, Hilary Ball and Ian Russell in the Laban building, Creekside, London