Dame Maggie: Ballet legend

11 November 2014 | By Behind Ballet

This week, in the studios of our Melbourne HQ, Artistic Director David McAllister launched a new biography of Dame Margaret Scott. The book, by Michelle Potter, is called Dame Maggie Scott: A Life in Dance. And what a life!

Dame Maggie is a legend in the Australian dance community; and indeed, Australian ballet would not be in the shape it’s in today without her. She danced with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, and was dancing with Ballet Rambert when she toured to Australia, fell for the place and settled there. She was instrumental in establishing both The Australian Ballet and The Australian Ballet School (which she directed from its inception in 1964 to 1990), and has shaped the careers of countless dancers, many of whom became stars of our company.

Teaching in the 1960s. Photograph from National Archives of Australia

In 1965, on an audition tour to Hobart for The Australian Ballet School, she picked a skinny, unlikely looking kid out of the crowd and insisted that he be taken into the School. That kid was Graeme Murphy, who went on to have a stellar career as a choreographer and director of Sydney Dance Company. In 1992, over a champagne breakfast, Murphy convinced Margaret Scott to return to the stage as the central character in his reconception of The Nutcracker. She reprised the role in 2000, at the age of 77.

Dame Margaret (who also had a close friendship and working relationship with the seminal choreographer John Cranko) has always valued choreographers. The Dame Margaret Scott Fund for Choreography most recently assisted the creation of Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, which played to sold-out seasons in Melbourne and Sydney, toured to Adelaide and scooped an Australian Dance Award. You can find out more about the Fund and how to donate to it here.

With Ross Stretton at The Australian Ballet School in 1971. Stretton later became Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet. Photography Paul Cox

Now in her 90s, Dame Maggie brought the house down when she appeared on stage at The Australian Ballet School’s recent 50th Anniversary Gala, sporting a sparkly golden stick for the golden anniversary. We’d like to join in the storms of applause for this remarkable lady.