Modern movements: women’s contributions to the success of Rudolf Laban’s ideas and practice in England 1930-1941




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Taylor and Francis



Peer reviewed



This journal article considers women who could all be said to have been working in the shadow of Rudolf Laban. During the 1930s and 40s in England a number of them developed the new modern dance as independent performers and teachers. Laban’s arrival in 1938 set up a series of complicated criss-crossings of ideas, practices, events, and relationships that were to have far reaching consequences and which left a legacy where it is Laban’s name that is canonical. These dancers and teachers included Anny Boalth, Sylvia Bodmer, Leslie Burrowes, Anny Fligg, Hilde Holger, Ann Hutchinson, Diana Jordan, Jean Newlove, Valerie Preston-Dunlop, Peggie Rowlands, Geraldine Stephenson, Veronica Tyndale-Biscoe, Lisa Ullmann, Jane Winearls and others. We give an overview of the ways in which these women interacted with Laban and his ideas and how they variously became Laban’s shadow or shadowed his practices. Their marginalization is largely because they were overshadowed by his name and reputation. We therefore focus on Lisa Ullmann and Anny Boalth as two individuals with different narratives in relation to Laban. We go on to consider three disparate women Leslie Burrowes, Louise Soelberg and Diana Jordan, who came together to establish the short-lived Dance Centre in London. The histories of these women working in Britain during the 1930s and 1940s in Laban’s shadow are histories that are in Foucault’s terms a genealogy of divergent traits with a focus on the corporeality of experience. ‘The body’, he wrote, ‘is the inscribed surface of events (traced by language and dissolved by ideas), … Genealogy, as an analysis of descent, is thus situated within the articulation of the body and history’ (1977: 148). As a genealogy, this chapter is a reappropriation of those archival records out of which the canonical history of dance and theatre performances have been created in order to find something altogether different, the hidden histories of the contributions that these women made to the field of movement training, bringing their contributions out of the shadows.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Lisa Ullman, Anny Boalth,, Leslie Burrowes, Louise Soelberg, Diana Jordan, Rudolf von Laban, Laban


Huxley, M. and Burt, R. (2020) Modern movements: women’s contributions to the success of Rudolf Laban’s ideas and practice in England 1930-1941. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training,


Research Institute

Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies