Margaret Barr (choreographer)

Margaret Barr
Born(1904-11-29)29 November 1904
Bombay, India
Died29 May 1991(1991-05-29) (aged 86)
Sydney, Australia
Known forDance and choreography
MovementModern dance
Spouse(s)Douglas Hart (m. 1936–c. 1950)

Margaret Barr (29 November 1904 – 29 May 1991) was a choreographer and teacher of dance-drama who worked in the United States, England, New Zealand and Australia. During a career of more than sixty years, she created over eighty works.[1]

Born in India, she spent parts of her adulthood in England and the United States. As an adult, she studied dance with Martha Graham in New York, and then moved to England. There, she formed dance groups in London, taught dance-mime at Dartington Hall School in Devon, and choreographed and produced dance-dramas on contemporary topics. In 1939, after marrying a conscientious objector, she moved with him to New Zealand, where she taught dance, movement and improvisation and developed further works. Around 1950, she left New Zealand for Australia, where she spent the rest of her life. For about forty years, she taught dance-drama classes developed from the ideas of Martha Graham and Konstantin Stanislavski. She led the Margaret Barr Dance Drama Group, mounting major productions every year. She also taught movement and improvisation at the National Institute of Dramatic Art for seventeen years. Her works explored many social issues, including the environment, relationships between peoples, strong women, pacificism, and ideas from works of art and literature.

Early life and education

Barr was born in Bombay, India, in 1904[2][3] to Mungo Barr, an American-born dentist, and his English wife Margaret (née Aukett), a nurse.[4][5] She had one younger sister, Betty. After time spent with other family members in the United States and England, Margaret and her sister settled with their parents in Santa Barbara, California,[4] where Barr graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1922.[6] They studied drama with Little Theatre Movement founders Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg,[4][6][7] and dance in the Denishawn style[4][5] with Martha Graham's sister Geordie,[4][7] then briefly ran their own dance school.[4][6] In 1927, they moved to New York, where Margaret Barr studied dance with Martha Graham.[4][5][7] Barr's first works, Earth Mother and Hebridean Suite, were choreographed while she was there;[4][5][6][7] she continued to produce Hebridean Suite until the 1970s,[4][5] and it was one of the works performed at a festival to celebrate the centenary of Barr's birth in 2004.[8]

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