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Australian Biography: Dame Margaret Scott

Australian Biography: Dame Margaret Scott

1997, 26 Minutes. Classification: G.

Dancer and Founding Director of the Australian Ballet School.
When Margaret Scott was a small child in South Africa she developed an unusually severe stutter, and for many years chose not to speak. Then she discovered dance and was able to give expression to the strong personality that had been concealed behind her shy and sensitive facade. Her love of dance was to take her across the world and ultimately to have a crucial influence on the development of ballet in Australia.
Arriving in London a week before the outbreak of World War II, the sixteen-year-old Scott began study at the Sadler's Wells Ballet School and graduated as a member of the company, dancing with Robert Helpmann and Margot Fonteyn. It was a hard grind as the company toured munitions factories and Air Force bases, performing to raise wartime morale. By war's end she had joined the famous Ballet Rambert and with that company she toured first Germany then Australia in 1947. There she met her husband-to-be Dr Derek Denton, but encountered professional disaster with a severe back problem which - twice in one year - forced her to spend months immobilised in a plaster cast. Scott surprised doctors by making a complete recovery. Returning to London, she moved into directing with the Rambert company and met the great choreographer John Cranko who was to remain a lifelong friend. In 1953 Scott and her husband settled in Melbourne where she became a teacher of dance and found her voice as an inspiration to the emerging movement for a national ballet. With the help of the legendary Nugget Coombs, she lobbied government until the Australian Ballet Company was set up in 1962. As founding director of the Australian Ballet School, she ensured that the most rigorous international standards were maintained, and under her leadership the School became an internationally recognised dance institution. Scott was known for discovering and nurturing young talent - like Graeme Murphy, world-renowned director of the Sydney Dance Company, who was later to pay tribute to his teacher by writing a special role for her in his production of 'The Nutcracker'. She was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1981.

A Film Australia National Interest Program.
© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

SEE ALSO

Australian Biography: HC 'Nugget' Coombs