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Margaret Dale


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maybe this should be posted under "films and videos" since the now late-Margaret Dale was so gifted in the field of filming dance.

this from a film-savvy colleague in the UK:

MARGARET DALE. Dancer with Sadler’s Wells Ballet and BBC Television producer of dance programmes died yesterday Thursday 28 January 2010

‘Margaret Dale…the most distinguished producer of television ballet’

A.H. Franks The Dancing Times December 1961

Margaret Dale was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 30 December 1922 and studied ballet with Nellie Potts and at Sadler’s Wells School (1937-39) before joining the Sadler’s Wells Ballet in 1939. She made her debut as the Child in Ninette de Valois’s ballet The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Margaret Dale dances in a wide repertoire of established and new works by Marius Petipa, Michel Fokine, Léonide Massine, Frederick Ashton, Robert Helpmann and Roland Petit. Among them were A Wedding Bouquet, Façade, Les Rendezvous, The Prospect Before Us, La Boutique Fantasque and The Sleeping Beauty. She sparkled as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Swanilda in Coppélia. In 1953, before the end of her career as a dancer, she choreographed The Great Detective for Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet which featured Kenneth MacMillan and Stanley Holden.

In 1954 Margaret Dale began working with the BBC where, she presented a wide range of dance companies while they were visiting London and from 1957 recorded established ballets in the studio with a group of dancers interested in the potential of the new medium. As Canadian scholar, Selma Odom noted Dale ‘thinks of television not only as a medium with its own craft, as an art form, and a means of communication, but more importantly as a potential “printing press” for dance’.

Dale made a number of important recordings of the Bolshoi, indeed according to BBC statistics, a staggering nine and a half million people tuned in to watch Music at Ten: Swan Lake Act II. This figure is even more remarkable when it is appreciated that it then equalled almost half the adult viewing public who had access to a television! This programme with Galina Ulanova and Nikolai Fadeyechev followed the company’s visit to Covent Garden was a turning point for dance on screen. Its success created the opportunity for her to film complete ballets. As Dale wrote after the transmission Swan Lake, ‘it was obvious that the particular kind of ballet that the public wanted on television was classical’.

In 1961 Margaret Dale signed a contract to record 9 ballets performed by The Royal Ballet over 3 years enabling her to document one of the most exciting periods in that company’s history. Among the productions she adapted for the screen and recorded were Coppélia, Giselle and Petrouchka all featuring Nadia Nerina, Ninette de Valois’ ballets Checkmate and The Rake’s Progress and Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal Gardée, Les Rendesvous, The Dream and Monotones. She was also producer of innovative made-for-screen ballets most notably Peter Darrell’s The House Party (1964) and the later Zodiac by a range of choreographers.

In her first decade as a producer and director she focused on presenting and creating ballets, aiming to express ‘as much of the feeling of the stage production as is possible on the small screen’. During her second decade she also made a series of major documentaries on aspects of dance including several for Omnibus including features on Dame Ninette de Valois, Nureyev and Léonide Massine. She also made the documentary for Ballet Rambert’s 50th anniversary.

Margaret Dale left the BBC in 1976 to teach and undertake research, spending considerable time in Canada where in 1976 she was appointed Chair of York University’s Department of Dance.

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Thank Robert you for posting such a long acknowledgement of Margaret Dale's work.

I first met her in 1968 in Varna where we were both attending the Ballet Competition she to make a film me to have an almost all day all night balletfest with dancers rehearsing into the early morning.

We spoke often during the two weeks spent there and she was gracious enough to interview me for the film which was shown on BBC television.

Margaret had a perceptive view of the ballet scene as one might expect given her broad experience. We met occasionally at performances at the Royal Opera House and elsewhere over the years and she was always very warm and encouraging.

I last saw her a just over two years ago at the National Film Theatre when they held a marvellous tribute season of her work. She was frail but lively in speech and manner and her eyes shone brightly as we reminisced.

Her contribution to ballet in England cannot be under-estimated and I am sure everyone who ever met her will be truly saddened at the loss of an extraordinary

talented and a very nice person.

For a description of the NFT Tribute see:


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