Peggy van Praagh
Dame Margaret "Peggy" van Praagh, DBE (1 September 1910, London, England – 15 January 1990, Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

, Australia) had a long and distinguished career in ballet
Ballet is a type of performance dance, that originated in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century, and which was further developed in France and Russia as a concert dance form. The early portions preceded the invention of the proscenium stage and were presented in large chambers with...

 as a dancer, choreographer
Choreography is the art of designing sequences of movements in which motion, form, or both are specified. Choreography may also refer to the design itself, which is sometimes expressed by means of dance notation. The word choreography literally means "dance-writing" from the Greek words "χορεία" ...

, teacher, producer, advocate and director.


Peggy van Praagh was educated at King Alfred School, London. She began dancing very early in London. One review stated: "At last night's concert a dainty extra was a very charming dance by little Peggy van Praagh ... Peggy is only six but she is quite a clever little artiste and is booked again for Saturday's matinee by request."

Van Praagh joined Ballet Rambert in 1933. Later she also danced with Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor was an English ballet choreographer, teacher and dancer.-Biography:Tudor, born William Cook, discovered dance accidentally. He began dancing professionally with Marie Rambert in 1928, becoming general assistant for her Ballet Club the next year...

's London Ballet. Van Praagh performed in some of Tudor's ballets such as Lilac Garden, Dark Elegies, Gala Performance, Soiree musicale and The Planets.

In the early years of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 she was heavily involved in staging lunch time ballet shows called Ballet for a Bob, which attracted large audiences of civilian and military personnel. In 1941, she was employed by Dame Ninette de Valois
Ninette de Valois
Dame Ninette de Valois, OM, CH, DBE, FRAD, FISTD was an Irish-born British dancer, teacher, choreographer and director of classical ballet...

 largely to teach company classes for Sadler's Wells Ballet, although van Praagh also danced in a number of company productions including Les Patineurs
Les Patineurs (ballet)
Les patineurs is a ballet created in 1937 with choreography by Frederick Ashton, to the music of Giacomo Meyerbeer arranged by Constant Lambert, for the Vic-Wells company, with designs by William Chappell.-Performance history:...

, Comus and Coppelia in which she danced the leading role of Swanilda.

Choreographer and teacher

In 1945, van Praagh became a teacher at the Sadler's Wells Ballet School. She worked there until 1956. During this time she maintained a long, fruitful association with choreographer Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor
Antony Tudor was an English ballet choreographer, teacher and dancer.-Biography:Tudor, born William Cook, discovered dance accidentally. He began dancing professionally with Marie Rambert in 1928, becoming general assistant for her Ballet Club the next year...

. From 1956 until 1960 she undertook freelance teaching and producing in Germany, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Holland and the USA.

Artistic Director of the Borovansky and Australian Ballet

In 1959, van Praagh came to Australia and was appointed Artistic Director
Artistic director
An artistic director is the executive of an arts organization, particularly in a theatre company, that handles the organization's artistic direction. He or she is generally a producer and director, but not in the sense of a mogul, since the organization is generally a non-profit organization...

 of the Borovansky Ballet
Edouard Borovansky
Edouard Borovansky was a Czech- born Australian ballet dancer, choreographer and director. After touring with Anna Pavlova's company, he and his wife settled in Australia where they established the Borovansky Ballet company...

 in 1960. She was instrumental in establishing the Australian Ballet in 1962. She remained in the position of Artistic Director of the until 1974, and was invited back again for the 1978 season. From 1965-1974, van Praagh held the position jointly with Sir Robert Helpmann
Robert Helpmann
Sir Robert Helpmann CBE was an Australian dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer.-Early years:He was born Robert Murray Helpman in Mount Gambier, South Australia and also boarded at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide. From childhood, Helpman had a strong desire to be a dancer...


Under van Praagh's direction, the Australian Ballet made the first of many overseas tours, developed a repertoire of ballets that included works from the established international repertoire as well as commissioned works from Australian and overseas choreographers, and hosted guest appearances by a number of notable dancers including Sonia Arova
Sonia Arova
Sonia Arova , born was a Bulgarian ballerina.She was born as Sonia Errio in Sofia, Bulgaria, and began her training in Paris. With the beginning of the Second World War, she barely escaped the Nazi advance through a reckless flight which was attacked by German planes...

, Erik Bruhn
Erik Bruhn
Erik Belton Evers Bruhn was a Danish ballet dancer, choreographer, company director, actor, and author.- Biography :...

, Dame Margot Fonteyn
Margot Fonteyn
Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias, DBE , was an English ballerina of the 20th century. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest classical ballet dancers of all time...

 and Rudolf Nureyev
Rudolf Nureyev
Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev was a Russian dancer, considered one of the most celebrated ballet dancers of the 20th century. Nureyev's artistic skills explored expressive areas of the dance, providing a new role to the male ballet dancer who once served only as support to the women.In 1961 he...

. While with the Australian Ballet, she also nurtured the development of Australian choreographers including Graeme Murphy
Graeme Murphy
Graeme Murphy is an Australian dance choreographer. Together with his fellow dancer Janet Vernon, he has guided Sydney Dance Company to become one of Australia's most successful and well-known dance companies....

, Ian Spink
Ian Spink
Ian Spink is an Australian-British choreographer.Born in Melbourne, he trained at the Australian Ballet School. After graduating in 1968, he danced and choreographed for The Australian Ballet, Australian Dance Theatre and the Dance Company of New South Wales.In 1974 he was offered a grant to tour...

, John Meehan
John Meehan (dancer)
John Meehan is an Australian dancer and ballet director, born 1950. He was dancer & ballet director. He studied at the Australian Ballet School, joined the Australian Ballet in 1970 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1974, creating roles in several works, including Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow...

 and Leigh Warren
Leigh Warren
Leigh Warren is an Australian contemporary dance choreographer and Artistic Director of Leigh Warren & Dancers having previously been at the Australian Dance Theatre...


Marilyn Rowe
Marilyn Rowe
Marilyn Rowe OBE is the first graduate of the Australian Ballet School to be appointed its director, in 1999.-Dancing career:...

, a protege of van Praagh, and now Director of the Australian Ballet School
Australian Ballet School
The Australian Ballet School was founded in 1964 as the primary training facility for The Australian Ballet by Dame Margaret Scott. It is part of the Australian Ballet Centre, which is located in the Melbourne Arts Precinct, Southbank in Melbourne, Victoria...

 said of her mentor: "Peggy had a five point plan for the development of the Australian Ballet:"
  • 1. A company of dancers engaged on annual contracts. Such contracts were heretofore unknown,
  • 2. A repertoire of established classics together with the best works by contemporary choreographers, designers and composers
  • 3. To present, as guest artists, the worlds best dancers and teachers
  • 4. To tour the company internationally
  • 5. To establish a national ballet school"

Dance advocate

Van Praagh was an advocate for dance education. During her career in Australia, along with Bernard James of the University of New England
University of New England, Australia
The University of New England is an Australian public university with approximately 18,000 higher education students. Its original and main campus is located in the city of Armidale in northern New South Wales....

's continuing education program, she was instrumental in organising a series of summer schools in dance that had a long-lasting influence on dance in Australia. She also helped establish the advocacy body, Ausdance (formerly Australian Association for Dance Education). In 1982, van Praagh was coordinator of dance studies at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts , Edith Cowan University was established in 1980 to provide performing arts tuition comparable to the highest calibre of national and international training benchmarks to be able to meet industry needs around the globe.The school is located in the...

, Edith Cowan University
Edith Cowan University
Edith Cowan University is located in Perth, Western Australia. It was named after the first woman to be elected to an Australian Parliament, Edith Cowan, and is the only Australian university named after a woman....

, Perth
Perth, Western Australia
Perth is the capital and largest city of the Australian state of Western Australia and the fourth most populous city in Australia. The Perth metropolitan area has an estimated population of almost 1,700,000....



  • Fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (London), 1933
  • Member of the Royal Academy of Dancing, 1969
  • Hon. D. Litt (University of New England), 1974
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE, 1966)

  • Queen Elizabeth Coronation Prize
  • Special Artist's Award, Australia Council
    Australia Council
    The Australia Council, informally known as the Australia Council for the Arts, is the official arts council or arts funding body of the Government of Australia.-Function:...

    , 1975
  • Britannica Australia Award for Arts, 1970
  • Honorary life patron of the National Capital Ballet School, Canberra, 1971
  • Honorary life member of the Australian Ballet Foundation, 1979.

  • Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE, 14 June 1970)


  • Sexton, Christopher and Peggy van Praagh, A life of dance, Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1985
  • Van Praagh, Margaret (Peggy), How I became a ballet dancer, Nelson, London, 1954
  • Van Praagh, Ballet in Australia, Longmans, Melbourne, 1965
  • Van Praagh, The arts in Australia - Ballet, Longmans, Melbourne, 1966
  • Van Praagh and Peter Brinson, The choreographic art; an outline of its principles and craft, Adam and Charles Black, London, 1963

External links

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