Marion North: ‘vision, persuasiveness and sheer determination’

Marion North, former Principal of the Laban Centre, was born in Hull and studied at Homerton Teacher Training College, before undertaking postgraduate study at the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester in the 1950s.

 

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Marion North’s letter of acceptance on to a postgraduate course at the Art of Movement Studio, 16 April 1951. [RefNo: D4/2007/39/5/68]

After completing her studies, Marion joined the Art of Movement Studio’s faculty, where she specialised in the detailed observation of human behavioural movement. She became apprenticed to Rudolf Laban, developing a test for assessment of personality through the analysis of physical behaviour and pioneering creative movement in the workplace as recreational activity for industrial workers.

 

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Notes on  ‘Vision Drives’ by Marion North, c1950s [RefNo: D4/2007/39/5/34]

Marion left the Art of Movement Studio in 1958, the year that Rudolf Laban died.  She became Head of Dance at Sidney Webb College, London from 1962-72 and then Head of the Dance Department, Goldsmith’s College from 1972-80. She became Principal of Laban in 1973. Under her leadership, Laban offered Britain’s first BA (Hons) Dance Theatre (1977), the first MA in Dance Studies (1980), the first MA in Dance Movement Therapy in collaboration with Hahnemann University, Philadelphia (1995) and the first MA Scenography [Dance] (1999).

Under Marion the Laban Centre became an international institution, particpating in international events as well as hosting choreographers and dancers from around the world to teach, work and inspire students at the Centre.

 

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Laban Centre students performing at Ninian Park, Cardiff in front of Pope John Paul II, 2 June 1982. Photographer: ?Marion North [RefNo: LA/D/12/4/10/1/2]

 

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Photograph of a workshop at the Laban Centre with choreographer Jacob Marley, 1989. Photographer: Tony Nandi [RefNo: LA/D/12/4/11/2/1]

Marion invited Bonnie Bird from the US to come and teach at the Laban Centre. Marion and Bonnie had first met at the Dance Notation Bureau in New York in 1970-71. They struck up a partnership ‘which was to have a dominating influence on the Laban Centre.’ (Willson, p. 179). Bonnie Bird came to work full-time at the Laban Centre in 1974.

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Photograph of Bonnie Bird teaching in Taipei, with Transitions Dance Company, c1992. Photographer: Tony Nandi [RefNo: LA/D/12/5/2/3/1]

 

Marion was a Visiting Professor at numerous colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Greece, Japan and Taiwan. Her own studies included a longitudinal study of movement characteristics of babies to adolescence as well as the application of Rudolf Laban’s principles in industry.

 

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Announcement of a lecture given by Dr Marion North on ‘Observations of personality development as seen in the movement of babies’, 5 March 1982, at the Tavistock Centre, London. [RefNo: D4/2007/39/5/73]

Marion held a PhD in Psychology and Movement Study from the University of London. Marion North was awarded an OBE in 2000 and Doctor of Letters honoris causa by the University of Salford in 2001.  She retired in 2003 having overseen the move of Laban (now the Faculty of Dance) into its new building at Deptford, South East London. In 2004, Marion  was awarded CBE as former Principal and Chief Executive of the Laban Centre.

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Marion North with students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance at her 85th birthday party, 2 November 2010. Photographer: Tony Nandi [RefNo: D4/2011/3/102]

Marion North died in 2012.

Anthony Bowne, who took over as Principal of the Laban Centre from Marion and led it into a new phase of its history as Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, summarised her legacy as follows:

‘Marion’s vision, persuasiveness and sheer determination have made an enormous contribution to developing the profile of contemporary dance education and training in this country. Her belief that creative work should be at the heart of every dance student’s experience continues to be a guiding principle in the development of all our dance courses and activities, and her conviction that Rudolf Laban’s work should form a significant dimension of studies here has secured us a unique place in the dance profession. Marion leaves us with a wonderful legacy, including our stunning building – her ultimate vision realized. We are now the guardians of this legacy, charged with responsibility to look always for innovative ways forward and creative solutions to the challenges facing us.’ [TL, 2016)

Bibliography:

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

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance Faculty of Dance. [TL] (2016, August 1). Marion North. Retrieved from http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/about-us/our-history/marion-north

 

 

 

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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

Significant Others

Sylvia Bodmer was born in Duisburg, Germany in 1902. During her 50-year career, she gained a reputation as one of the foremost proponents of the inclusive and free-interpretive dance style of Rudolf Laban. Bodmer showed an aptitude for mathematics as a child, but her gender proved an obstacle to employment in that field, despite a good qualification. She gravitated toward dance, and came to know about Rudolf Laban’s work through Suzanne Perrottet, one of his earliest followers. After 18 months with Perrottet, she went to study with Laban’s school in Stuttgart. Laban, impressed with her dancing, in 1922 asked her to join his performing dance group Tanzbuhne Laban, with whom she spent two years.

Here is an exert from her memoirs referring to her time spent with Laban in Gleschendorf.

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In 1924 Bodmer joined with Lotte Mueller in Frankfurt to form a school based on Laban’s ideas, and then joined with Edgar Frank in 1927 to form a chamber dance group.

Sylvia brought her young family to Manchester, England, in 1938. She began teaching dance, and founded the Young Dancers’ Group. Laban and Lisa Ullmann also found themselves through different circumstances in Manchester. It is here that Bodmer and Ullmann set up the Manchester Dance Circle in 1943. It created a platform for Ullmann’s training classes, Bodmer’s movement choir works, and Laban’s lectures.

Laban and Lisa Ullmann left Manchester in 1953 (Bodmer, W.2004 p.6), taking the Art of Movement Studio down to Addlestone, Surrey. Sylvia continued to run the Manchester Dance Circle.

Central to Laban’s teaching were his concepts of body movement, ‘space harmony’ and dynamics. This enabled him to work out ways of systematizing the study of human movement, and so led him to the development of movement notation. He was unique in his development of the idea of ‘efforts’, the idea of scales related to points in space defining an icosahedron around the human body and in his applications to practical questions in time and motion study and the assessment of personality. Sylvia’s earlier mathematics training allowed her to quickly define Laban’s direction and to develop her own ‘space forms’.

‘Bodmer’s notebooks overflow with diagrams in both his and her writing. The steeple, the arc, the round and the double bend scrutinised in their regular, expanded and contracted forms. Her comprehension of harmonic principles, and the function of the scaffolding provided by platonic solids in relation to the psyche and to the structure of the body.’… ‘Bodmer was not only able to write about it, simply and coherently, but also to choreograph studies.’ (Preston-Dunlop, V. 1998, p. 259) 

Here are three sheets of handwritten notes by Sylvia Bodmer, covering different types of ‘flow’, c1940-50

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Bodmer became known as one of the finest interpreters of Laban’s work, both as a solo dancer and a teacher. She continued to teach and develop his work for the rest of her life until she died in 1989.

 

Bibliography

Bodmer, W., ‘Laban Lecture 2004’, Movement & Dance, quarterly magazine of the Laban Guild, (Spring 2005 p.6)

Preston-Dunlop, V., ‘Rudolf Laban: An extraordinary Life’, (Dance Books Ltd, London 1998)

 

Where it all began – the early days of the Faculty of Dance

The Art of Movement Studio (now the Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban) first opened its doors to the public in January 1946 at 183-5 Oxford Road, Manchester. It was housed in rooms over a garage in a not particularly salubrious neighbourhood but it did have ‘a large room with windows all down one side and a reasonably well boarded floor’ (Thornton, p. 4).  The Studio was the result of a lot of hard work on the part of Lisa Ullmann and Rudolf Laban who, since arriving in Manchester in 1942, had been training students in the cellar of a large house in Palatine House, Didsbury, Manchester (Preston-Dunlop, p. 222). They had also been travelling the length and breadth of the UK conducting short courses and holiday courses and running a teachers’ training course for the past few years since Laban’s arrival in the UK in 1938.

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Photograph of Lisa Ullmann teaching Meg Tudor Williams, Mary Elding, Valerie Preston (later Preston-Dunlop), Warren Lamb and Hettie Loman at the Art of Movement Studio, 1947 [RefNo: LC/A/14/1/3]

Lisa Ullmann had trained at a Laban School in Germany and been on the teaching staff at Kurt Jooss’s Folkwangschule Essen (now the Folkwang University of the Arts). She came to England with Ballets Jooss in 1934 to teach at the Jooss-Leeder school at Dartington Hall. During this time, she set up and ran a movement choir and conducted evening classes for the Worker’s Educational Association in Plymouth and for teachers at the University of Exeter. She came across Rudolf Laban whilst passing through Paris in 1937 (Preston-Dunlop, p. 206). He had managed to escape Germany having fallen foul of the Nazi regime, but was now penniless and destitute. On her return to Dartington she must have discussed his plight with Kurt Jooss who then issued a personal invitation to Laban to come and stay at Dartington Hall, which he did in 1938.

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Prospectus for the Art of Movement Studio c1950 [RefNo:  LC/C/4/391.39]

 By 1945, the demand for dance training was such that  Lisa Ullmann and Rudolf Laban decided to set up a centre and took on a five-year lease of the Oxford Road premises. They had wanted to call the centre the ‘Basic Movement Studio’ to emphasise their view of movement as ‘a common denominator to life’ (Willson, p.32) but this title had already been taken so they settled instead for ‘The Art of Movement Studio’.

There is no formal record of how many students were first enrolled at the Studio when it opened but various sources suggest it was around eight. They were to be offered instruction by Rudolf Laban, Lisa Ullmann and Sylvia Bodmer and each student ‘had to pay either £96 for three twelve week terms, or £40 for a single term.’ (Willson, p. 34)

Classes focused on  ‘theoretical tuition and practical exercise based on the sudy of harmony and rhythm in movement’ (Quoted from the Studio prospectus below).

 

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The syllabus of the Art of Movement Studio, c1950 [RefNo: LC/C/4/391.39]

Dr Valerie Preston-Dunlop became a student at the Art of Movement Studio in 1947. Here she talks about some of the things that Rudolf Laban expected from her during the course of her studies there.


[RefNo: TL/2008/7/2]

Displays of dance were given at the Studio regularly, and as their work became more well known, students from the Studio were invited to perform at local halls and theatres.

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Notice of a performance given by the Art of Movement Studio in 1947. The Studio had been invited to perform by the Manchester Dance Circle, a group that had been set up by Sylvia Bodmer, a former student of Rudolf Laban. [RefNo: LC/C/1/391.44]

Sylvia Bodmer was one of the first tutors at the Studio. She had come to the UK in 1938 to escape the Nazi regime. Prior to this she had trained as a dancer at the Laban School in Stuttgart, Germany and performed with Rudolf Laban’s dance group at Gleschendorf in the 1920s. She had gone on to found a successful school in Frankfurt which provided choreography for the Frankfurt Opera House. On her arrival in the UK she began giving private movement lessons and by 1943 had set up the Manchester Dance Circle, a community dance group, to promulgate Rudolf Laban’s ideas. Whilst at the Art of Movement Studio, she founded the Young Dancers’ Group using the Studio’s advanced students. They performed at the Manchester Library Theatre and elsewhere in the local area to much acclaim.

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Photograph of members of the Young Dancers’ Group performing in Manchester, 1947. [RefNo: LC/A/17/2/7/16]

By 1950 the Art of Movement Studio was offering a selection of full and part-time courses and its student numbers had increased so much that it needed to find additional premises to rent nearby. Links were also being developed with the Unnamed Drama Society, with Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop and with the Northern Theatre School. As these activities widened it became obvious that the Studio needed to find a much larger and better equipped centre. Through the generosity of the wealthy, philanthropic Elmhirst family, an estate of sixteen acres at Addlestone, near Weybridge, Surrey was donated and in October 1954, the Laban Art of Movement Centre was established.

Our series continues next month with a closer look at Rudolf Laban – who was he and what was he like?

Bibliography:

Preston-Dunlop, V. (1998). Rudolf Laban: An extraordinary life. London, England: Dance Books Ltd.

Thornton, S. (1971). Studio 25. Addlestone: Art of Movement Studio

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

 

Life forms

70 years ago this month the Art of Movement Studio (AMS), later to become the Laban Centre and then the Dance Faculty at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music of Dance,  first opened its doors to the public. To celebrate, each blog posting this year will highlight an aspect of our history. To start off, we are celebrating the life of June Petit, an alumnus.

Life Forms: Celebrating the life of June Petit 1930-2015.

June taught PE at a college in Norwich before becoming in 1958, a student at the Art of Movement Studio (AMS). We have some lovely photographs of June dancing in the archive collection.

June attended many dance courses before she officially started at the Art of Movement Studio.

Lisa Ullmann, Summer School, Ashridge, 1955.

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She took this photograph of Lisa Ullmann whilst attending a summer school at Ashridge in 1955.

Below is a sound bite from an interview we recorded in 2012 and is held in our archive collection.  She talks about meeting Rudolf Laban and of his inspirational qualities, her abilities as a dancer, the problems of having narrow hips and being told off for messing around in Lisa Ullmann’s classes.

She explains how physically and mentally she was ‘stretched’ by the experiences of being taught by Lisa Ullmann and Sylvia Bodmer.

 

The students were encouraged to explore many art forms not just dance, providing them with a diverse interdisciplinary approach to their studies. At this point the course at the AMS was a teacher training course. After finishing her course she went on to teach movement at Central School of Speech and Drama; Woodberry Down School, North London; Brighton and Hove High School and Mayfield School, East Sussex. June continued for the rest of her life to be inspired by dance, art and everything creative.

Pottery form made by June Petit, 2012.

Pottery form made by June Petit, 2012.

This is an expressive pottery form, made by June in 2012, depicting the energy and life forces that emanate from the landscape.  She made this piece when she lived in Lewes, East Sussex, inspired by the local landscape – the chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters.

Summer visitors to the archive 2015

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We welcomed Eva Giese-Wiesweg and her family to the Laban Archive this summer. Eva is the great-niece of Lisa Ullmann and she visited the Faculty of Dance to find out more about her heritage. We were happy to get out the hundreds of photographs we have in the archive of Lisa Ullmann, Laban-trained dancer, teacher and pioneer who helped to master-mind the founding of the Art of Movement Studio (now the Faculty of Dance, Trinity Laban) in 1946 and was a major supporter of, and constant companion of Rudolf Laban throughout the last twenty years of his life.

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Ullmann, pictured above, had been a pupil of the Laban School of Lotte Wedekind in the 1920s and she went on to work with Kurt Jooss as a member of his staff at the Dance Department of his Folkwangschule Essen, in Germany. In 1934, she travelled to Dartington Hall in England with Ballets Jooss to teach at the Jooss-Leeder School. During this time, she became involved with her own movement choir, and conducted evening classes for the Worker’s Educational Association in Plymouth and for teachers at the University of Exeter. She stayed at Dartington Hall as a teacher until 1940. Working closely with Rudolf Laban after he came to England in 1938 she became more and more interested in the psychological and educational aspect of dance and movement. The Art of Movement Studio opened in 1946 and for 30 years a great number of teachers from schools and colleges studied there on secondment. A great number of her students had distinguished educational careers and played a major part in raising the status of dance to that of a degree subject not just a practical art.
To find out more about Lisa Ullmann, search for her on our Laban Archive catalogue and to see her many publications, our Laban Library catalogue.