Margaret Dale

Family name: 
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Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
21 Jan 1992
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Interview with Margaret Dale (choreographer, ballet dancer, television producer)

The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History project.

Interviewer Norman Swallow

Recorded on the 21st January 1992.

DISC 1 Side One Track 1

NS: First of all Maggie, when and where were you born?

MD: Newcastle on Tyne 1922. I am the same age as the BBC (both laugh).

NS: What kind of schooling did you do?

MD: I went to school very early, I think you would call it elementary school in those days.

It was a little local school-I think I was only four. There were no kindergartens in those days. I think the age was supposed to be five-you were supposed to go when you were five and I think my mother always said I was four and nine months or something.

Then I went to a very famous, I suppose you would call it a grammar school. It was a school that had been founded in 1705. It was, I suppose a church school turned into a grammar school-that was first in the centre of Newcastle and then the building was moved to an outline district called Fenham.

I didn’t enjoy school and I think it is better if I don’t name the school because I thought it was a very poor education they gave me. I thought so at the time and much more important than school was to me the dancing class.

NS: Where was this?  In the school?

MD: No, no, no! I think my mother wanted to be an opera singer so she took me to dancing class. I went to dancing class before I went to school. I went to dancing class at three.

I think what happened (this is family tales) because I don’t remember being three although I have got pictures of myself as fairy sunshine. The story goes that my mother used to go into town (we lived slightly out of town in an area called Gosforth). My mother used to go into town in the mid-twenties to do her shopping, which of course she didn’t bring home with her; it was all delivered later. She just came with a nice little package of something; no supermarkets in those days. But mother used to go and have tea in a tearoom in the town after doing her shopping, which consisted of sitting up on a high stool, (I think the shop was called Humphrey’s) and actually giving an order to a gentleman in a black coat. That was how shopping was done in those days. Then it came later that she would go to the tearoom.

The tearoom was in The Assembly Rooms and the Assembly Rooms were originally, I suppose, 18th Century. A lot of Newcastle in those days was a very beautiful 18th Century town and we had some beautiful buildings which (I haven’t been recently) but I think they have been destroyed. I am sure you can imagine this beautiful 18th Century building, large hard floor. Its’ assemblies you know is dancing, 18th Century social dancing, but in the twenties they were dotted with tables, with gilt chairs, white teacloths, waitresses in black dresses with white frilly aprons and white headbands. There would be a band because part of the floor would be cleared and people used to tango, foxtrot and all that stuff.

The story goes that I used to dance in and out of the tables while my mother was having her tea and a waitress said one day “Oh, you should let that child learn dancing. We’ve got a very good dancing teacher here”.

So one way or another the dancing teacher and my mum met and discussed dance lessons. The teacher was all of seventeen and she taught tangos and foxtrots and all that stuff and I became her first child pupil. Her name was Nellie Potts and she went on to become, probably I won’t say the most famous, but a very famous examiner of the Royal Academy of Dancing. Your sister will know of Miss Potts.

NS: You were in Burnley

MD: Yes well we weren’t, the headquarters were. We were constantly on the move. I mean we had no base. Sadler’s Wells Theatre had been taken over by the borough of Finsbury, as a shelter for local people. For quite a while Guthrie had the office there because that was where Miss Baylis office was. Miss Baylis had the Vic and the Wells. The Vic, I think was bombed or uninhabitable. The Wells was commandeered so the company had no base and Guthrie moved the base to Burnley. He kept an opera company, a drama company and a ballet company on the move permanently all over England, interspersed with ENSA. We did a lot of ENSA. We did the camps- Bulford, Tidworth, Chedworth, Aldershot. We didn’t do canteens. Ballet Rambert did work in canteens. We were obliged to do what was called ‘war work’.

The men were called up and the only men we had in the company were either commonwealth citizens who were not .....?  We had Robert Helpmann who was never called up because he was Australian. Otherwise all the boys, without exception, went into the forces. So the problem was how to keep a repertoire going with very few men, because we had students from the school who were too young doing all the old men parts. You get a sixteen year old with a beard.

It was a great surprise to Guthrie, who was not fond of the ballet-he thought it had no intellectuality about it. He was a drama man but also opera. He thought it had no intellectual content.  He was really quite surprised at the popularity of the ballet company. In ENSA in the army camp Les Sylphides used to go down a bomb with an audience full of soldiers, most of whom had never seen a ballet in their lives at that time. Facade was very popular because it was funny, witty. We did quite a lot of ENSA.

I had another thought about Guthrie. Anyway there was a split. I remember doing the performance of Faust because in those days the ballet danced in the operas; a lot of operas. It must have been 1940 after Holland. When did the Blitz start?

NS: 1940

MD: Well I remember we were performing at the Wells at this particular time. The season was just coming to an end-well yes, that makes sense because the theatre couldn’t be commandeered before the Blitz for homeless people. So it was just before the Blitz, the very beginning of it.

Disc 1 Side 1 Track 2

MD: And really what happened after was Miss Potts and I grew up together. I was three and she was seventeen and we learnt dancing together. My first lessons were in a room above a shop in Newcastle; I think it was called Eamonn Atkinson and was a shoe shop. My lesson used to be after a ballroom lesson because I always remember changing, putting on my ballet shoes to the sound, from above of Victor Sylvester ‘I love the moon’ (sings) ‘ I love the moon, I love the stars’. If I ever hear that tune I go right back to being four years old and I can feel the cold linoleum on the floor as I took my socks off and put my shoes on.

Miss Potts was infinitely more important to me than school. I learnt far more from her although she didn’t know a lot herself. It was true to say we went along together. When I was young, real life was dancing class. School was something I had to put up with and I had absolutely no respect for the teachers or the governors. The governors used to come along and tell us, you know, homilies about a good life and all that. I remember one year when at least three of them were put in prison for various... I had no respect from them at all. I think I was probably bored at school because I didn’t listen to any of the lessons. I read under the desk all of the time.

NS: What did you read?

MD: Well everything, anything, absolutely anything. I was caught once and sent to the headmistress. I don’t remember what the book was now, but I know she was astonished to find that it was a very good book. I really don’t remember, but she was surprised and because of it, very lenient. At the elementary school, you know, we used to get strapped. Yes I got strapped. You had to hold out your hand and ‘Wham!’ The resentment, the resentment that builds up, you can’t believe. I think schooling was appalling in my day. I don’t know whether I was just unlucky.

NS: We have heard a bit about your mother, but you haven’t mentioned your father. For example what was his profession? What did he think about all this?

MD: He went along with it. My Father had not been long out of the First World War. He had been in the trenches with his brothers. He went through a large part of the war in France with two brothers. They looked after each other. They survived; I think he was only eighteen. Northumberland Fusiliers.

NS: Sounds appropriate.

MD: Towards the end of the war, he managed to get himself into the air force and became an observer and he flew and he enjoyed that. They married in 1921. I don’t know when he was demobilised but that is not a great distance. I don’t know how he got his job. He worked for the Gas Light and Coke Company and then that became a firm called Stevenson Clarke. I really don’t know a great deal about that side of things, but I think he was some kind of chartering clerk, moving ships and cargoes from south to north and north to south.

His father who had died very young, just shortly after he was born, had been a great liberal in Newcastle and had connections with Gladstone. I think I have got a postcard from Gladstone to my grandfather on my father’s side. In a way the grandfathers are more important than my parents. I think my parents had a terribly hard time. The First World War, the Depression in the North of England which was fearful. They had very little money.

They had a hard life. We were, what I think is called middle class. We certainly knew people a lot worse off. We didn’t know very many people who were any richer. My memory is having to be extremely careful, not total hardship, thriftiness was what mattered. You didn’t spend any money; stood me in very good stead recently.

Disc 1 Side 1 Track 3

NS: When did you really go into ballet dancing?

MD: It was continuous from being three. Just slowly. Miss Potts saw a great future in teaching children as opposed to ballroom dancing. There was a worldwide interest in ballroom dancing in the twenties; the Charleston, the Tango, the Foxtrot-but it faded. There seemed to be, to her, in Newcastle, a great future for teaching children and the dancing class thrived. It got bigger and bigger.

We did all kinds of dancing. I didn’t just do ballet. I did Greek dancing, acrobatic, musical comedy, also ballroom dancing. I liked the Greek dancing the best, barefoot. It was sort of imitation Isadora Duncan. The people in England...The Ginn and Moores*? Margaret Morris. You see there was another world which came out of Physical Education and a great interest in natural movement. Getting away from corsets and that sort  of thing. There was a great health movement. We didn’t really know what ballet was. It was called operatic dancing and the Royal Academy in those days was the association of operatic dance teachers. Miss Potts discovered the RAD and put her children through the grades, 1,2 up to Intermediate and Advanced. She was growing as a teacher in her knowledge. There were competitions from a very early age. I took part in dance competitions. There were two main competitions. One was a regional Northumberland dance competition where you got medals, but the most important was the Sunshine dance competition because that had Regional heats, semi finals in Leeds and a final in London. Those competitions happened every year. So the year went in terms of the exam /competitions you were working for and Miss Pott’s display. Miss Potts display was something. When I was ten, I think I was about to take my elementary exam. It would be 1933 and I had to come to London.

At the same time, Miss Potts had discovered Russian ballet. I do remember coming to London with my mother, Miss Potts and the pianist and staying at the Premier, a small version of the Imperial Hotel. I had never stayed in a hotel before. Miss Potts took me down for special coaching from Miss Phyllis Bedells. That turned out to be very fortunate because Miss Bedells* turned out to be the examiner. Miss Potts was quite cute.

Disc 1 Side 1 Track 4

MD:  Anyway I do remember her saying she thought it was a bit risky, but on the other hand it might be inspiring and she was going to take me to Covent Garden to the ballet the night before my exam. I have a slight lack of exact memory. I remember going to Covent Garden. I remember seeing Colonel De Basil’s Ballet Russes. I remember most of the programme. At the same time I know I also went with Miss Potts to another theatre which does not exist anymore. It was where the Odeon is now.

NS:  Alhambra, Leicester Square?

MD:  That’s right-at the Alhambra. In the early thirties I saw Rene Blum’s Ballet Russes, but I am a bit vague which came first, because after the first visit to Russian Ballet and seeing what it was, after that I saw Russian Ballet more or less every time it was possible. I’m not quite sure which I saw first.

NS:  You were still at the grammar school-the one you had disliked?

MD: Oh yes! Oh yes! I was constantly having to ask the headmistress for permission to be away etc etc. When I came to leaving school, she was quite decent. I joyfully left school before I was fourteen and came to London to join Vic Wells Ballet School. The headmistress was quite decent. It was then a question of when my birthday fell. She could have forced me to stay at school longer because my birthday fell in the Christmas holidays, but she didn’t. The reason she didn’t was that she had heard of Lilian Baylis and she thought Lilian Bayliss was a good woman and she was in charge of this organisation, to which I was going to, although she had never heard of Ninette de Valois or the Vic Wells Ballet, or anything. She had confidence in Lilian Bayliss and so I was allowed to leave school. I couldn’t have been more pleased (laughs).

NS: How did you get into the Sadler’s Wells first school?

MD: Miss Potts.

NS: Sorry, what was she doing now? Permanent job?

MD: Miss Potts? She was still running her school very successfully.

NS: In Newcastle

MD: I was her first pupil but she had many other pupils who became members of what is now known as the Royal Ballet. 1936- in the Autumn tour, the Vic Wells Ballet, as it was known, came to Newcastle. Miss Potts arranged for me to have an audition with another girl. Two of us went to have an audition with Ninette de Valois, ostensibly, Just for Miss de Valois to make comments on our abilities. It so happened that Miss de Valois was recruiting was looking for young people who could go into..... she was expanding at that time and she took both of us into the school. She said she would have both of us if our parents were willing to let us come to London to live etc etc. It was all arranged. So I joined the school.

NS: It was purely an accident she happened to be in Newcastle-de Valois I mean.

MD: Well, not an accident, it was the Company’s tour

NS: Yes I mean you moved with her into her Company, joined her school.

MD: Yes I mean the timing

NS: Yes, That’s what I mean. Life is full of coincidences. You were in Newcastle and de Valois was in Newcastle.

MD: Yes I think she was recruiting people from dancing schools form other cities they visited. For instance, Liverpool, Manchester. They did a short tour in May and had a very long unpaid holiday. They had a short provincial season from October through to May performing only twice a week. It was a very small thing then. Yes, if Miss Potts hadn’t taken me, it would all be very different, no doubt.

Disc 1   side 1   track 5

NS: Did you ever win ‘When the Sun Shines’ matinees?

MD: I’ve got quite a lot of medals. I never got the cup. Any number of bronzes. I could deck myself up as a Chelsea Pensioner. The good thing about those competitions was that it gave performing experience.

NS: How long were you in training before you went onto the stage?

MD: (laughs) I was on the stage before I started the first class. I’ll tell you what happened. I came down to London and an aunt who lived in Enfield had been finding me and another girl somewhere to stay. We had to find rooms. Miss de Valois’ secretary had some names, suitable places where some of the members of the company stayed. There was a Mrs Brown in Calthorpe Street who took in-she had two members of the company and she was willing to take in a couple of students. My aunt went and visited her and found a Polish gentleman living on the top floor. Provided the Polish gentleman was asked to leave, it was agreed that the students would go to Mrs Brown’s. So that was fixed and I moved into Mrs Brown’s. I was told to present myself at Sadler’s Wells theatre and ask for Miss Ursula Morton. I think it must have been a Saturday matinee in the Christmas period 36/37. I was about to start at the school Jan.37. During that Christmas holiday, I was in London in advance. I went to the stage door one Saturday; I suppose the matinee, planning to go to the performance and to call on Miss Morton before the performance.

There was a lovely production, newish production of Casse Noisette- The Nutcracker, two acts, the Christmas Party and Land of the Sweets. This was preceded by another ballet. I don’t remember what it was, but it might have been Barbow*? Before the performance I went round by the stage door and asked for Miss Morton. She came down the stone steps at the Sadler’s Wells backstage in her dressing gown made up for the part of the mother in Casse Noisette. I said who I was and she said “Darling, can you go on?” I said “Yes!” I was taken backstage and told, talked through the little dance that the children do, one of the children from the Colne School, Gladys Gill, I think was her name, had fallen ill and had not turned up, or her mother had sent word that she would not be turning up. I was taught the little dance and they said don’t worry about the rest of the act, we’ll tell you what to do.

I got into a costume, got made up and went on. I was told all the time, someone in the company would say “Come over here, dear-go over there, dear”. Harold Turner I remember was very helpful. That was when I first performed with the Vic Wells Ballet.

NS: And then?

MD: And then the school and I think it was March ’37. One of the senior girls in the ballet company had been asked to do, create, choreograph a little ballet for television  called ‘The Three Bears’, with music of the same name by Eric Coates. I was the smallest girl in the school and I had already proved myself, I think in the Nutcracker, and Joy Newton asked me to be the baby bear. I think that was March 1937. That was my first experience of television.

NS: At Alexandra Palace?

MD: At Alexandra Palace.

Disc 1 Side 1 Track 6

MD: It was a great success. I think the producer was D H Munro. I don’t recall a great deal about the first performance except that I thought television was wonderful. But we did it again, a year later, I think and I hadn’t grown too much – I was still able to do the baby bear. The second performance I think I have clearer memories of, because I think the producer was Elizabeth Cowell.

NS: She was an announcer.

MD: Yes, but they had occasionally had responsibilities. I may not be absolutely right about that-if it wasn’t her- I think she was credited with it because I have been through some early records....

NS: You wouldn’t get much rehearsal time, I wouldn’t think in those days, did you?

MD: I don’t remember

NS: There would be a morning ‘waltz’ through and an afternoon rehearsal.

MD: What I remember was a crowded studio; there was no room to move. I mean you couldn’t dance and three bears was a very small cast. In ’38 the Vic Ballet did big ballets. I mean I did Clara in The Nutcracker, 3rd Act only in ’38 as well as the repeat of The Three Bears. But I do remember, I think this was the ’38 live performance, in which the producer invented a little Prologue. This was an attempt at presentation you see. I was asked if I would wear a dress over my bear costume and be a child sitting on the knee of a man who was going to tell the story of The Three Bears. Then I would tear off the dress and race to the other end of Ally Pally, put on my bear mask and headdress because the bear music doesn’t come in- they are not there at the beginning and so this little prologue was arranged and I sat on Mr Middleton’s knee, the gardener, the television’s gardener. He was co -opted to play the part of...

NS: (interrupts) Sorry Harry Middleton? (Someone in the studio confirms this.)

MD: .....the parent telling the child-I was a very old child by then!


Disc 1    Side 1  Track 7

MD: The thing that worried me terribly was that baby bear costume had a false tummy because it was padded because I was small and skinny. The baby had to have this pouch. When I had this under my dress I looked like a pregnant teenager you know- I thought at the time this is not going to convince anybody but it wasn’t my place to say anything. I didn’t know what size shot they were taking. I felt like a pregnant teenager. Then I raced along the corridor and did the bear bit. ’38 was quite fun; I did a lot of television. Some independently because Joy Newton was asked to do another ballet for television. She chose again, I think, Eric Coates music and it was The Selfish Giant which is an Oscar Wilde’s story about children. So I was in The Selfish Giant and that was successful and we did that twice. I did Clara in The Nutcracker, I did Checkmate, the Vic Wells ballet did Checkmate. There was a lot.

NS: Who was in charge in respect of TV production in those days?

MD: D H Munro, I think, I mean I don’t know, But my impression is that it was D H Munro.

AS: He did all the ballets?

MD:  AS far as I remember but that can be easily checked because the BBC has excellent records-by 1938 they have very good records indeed. By ’39 we did The Sleeping Princess, as it was called, that famous production. BBC linked that production to the Command Performance that we gave at the Royal Opera House in ’39, a state performance for President Lebrun (the French President). I think the performance we did on television, the Sleeping princess was preceded by a newsreel of the State visit.

One of the tiresome things about performing for BBC TV independently and performing for BBC TV as a member of Vic Wells cast, because I wasn’t in the company then only by thirty...

They gave me a scholarship almost right away so my parents didn’t have to pay fees and I got five shillings per performance which was paid by Miss Bailey, five bob. ’38 I became what is known as a paid student and I got one pound a week.

Disc 1  Side 1  Track 8

MD: Television (independent) was wonderful. I got two guineas per performance for my bear. My baby bear gave me riches beyond belief. But doing a red pawn in Checkmate, as a member of the cast of the Vic Wells ballet- we only got ten shillings and six pence. We thought that was terribly unfair and that was because the BBC had made a package deal with the Vic Wells ballet, but they hadn’t thought to relate the fees (or couldn’t afford to) to what they paid outside. I suppose they assumed that we were all getting salaries anyway. Therefore a television performance was a bonus.

Equity (it was very early days for Equity) and I wasn’t even a member of Equity in those days. Equity didn’t exist as far as we were concerned. I think BBC was very early days for their booking department and their ideas about pay. We thought it was very unfair. Being a red pawn in Checkmate was a lot more difficult and the responsibility was greater than being a baby bear.

NS: You were talking about the Command Performance. Does that mean the BBC was an outside broadcast? Live?

MD: No, no! They didn’t go into the theatre as I recall, OBs were not so sophisticated in those days. I don’t remember cameras at the Wells ever. I have here-D H Munro for The Three Bears, Elizabeth Colwell for The Selfish Giant, D H Munro for The Sleeping Princess 25th March 1939; preceded by newsreel of Command performance at Covent Garden on 27th march, state visit French President.

NS: We are coming up to the war now, aren’t we only a few months off it?

MD: The other names I remember from very early days television are Dallas Balla*? Stephen Thomas, Hyam Greenwell*.

I think it is worth saying something about the importance the BBC attached to children’s programmes on television. That came out of the importance they attached to children’s programmes on radio. Early days it was really like radio with pictures and policies were much the same. Policies seem to come from some extent from policies at BH.

Commissioning on a small scale is usually a more lengthy and expensive procedure than just televising something that already exists. The fact that Munro could commission two ballets before the war from Joy Newton, four children’s’ programmes.

Disc 1  Side 2 Track 1

NS: 1940, are you a member of the ballet company by this time? No longer a student?

MD: Yes and no. What happened was that at the beginning of the war, the organisation was stranded. The Vic Wells were actually in Liverpool when war was declared, because it was the September tour that I have already mentioned. I had been as a paid student in the summer tour. I had performed with the company in Oxford and Cambridge and Bournemouth and was spending the long unpaid vacation when war was declared. So I was actually in Newcastle when war was declared and very despondent, we knew there would be no company, theatres had been closed. The ballet company kept in touch with the members of the company and after a few weeks of telephone calls, I was asked to join the company in Cardiff in late September. The company had found a way of reforming a company and building a tour. They couldn’t play London, the theatres were closed. By that time Miss Bayliss had died and Tyrone Guthrie was our general manager. So the person on the phone was Guthrie, telling us what was happening. We embarked on a tour in the blackout and we never knew when we were going next from week to week. The company got engagements. It was a great joke and Constant Lambert and Frederick Ashton used to read the bible on train calls saying ‘the Israelites pitched their tents, took up their tents and went to so and so. We had a very long and quite successful tour under those conditions. In May 1940 the British Council sent us to Holland. We were there when The Germans decided to join. So that was my only experience of being a refugee. Quite exciting!

NS: So what happened? You left Holland?

MD: We got out. This is not really relevant. That’s a story in itself.

NS: You came home?

MD: Well then the War. Touring up and down the country. Seasons in London Headquarters of the company were moved to Burnley in Lancashire.

DISC 1  Side 2 Track 2

NS: You were in Burnley

MD: Yes well we weren’t, the headquarters were. We were constantly on the move. I mean we had no base. Sadler’s Wells Theatre had been taken over by the borough of Finsbury, as a shelter for local people. For quite a while Guthrie had the office there because that was where Miss Baylis office was. Miss Baylis had the Vic and the Wells. The Vic, I think was bombed or uninhabitable. The Wells was commandeered so the company had no base and Guthrie moved the base to Burnley. He kept an opera company, a drama company and a ballet company on the move permanently all over England, interspersed with ENSA. We did a lot of ENSA. We did the camps- Bulford, Tidworth, Chedworth, Aldershot. We didn’t do canteens. Ballet Rambert did work in canteens. We were obliged to do what was called ‘war work’.

The men were called up and the only men we had in the company were either commonwealth citizens who were not .....?  We had Robert Helpmann who was never called up because he was Australian. Otherwise all the boys, without exception, went into the forces. So the problem was how to keep a repertoire going with very few men, because we had students from the school who were too young doing all the old men parts. You get a sixteen year old with a beard.

It was a great surprise to Guthrie, who was not fond of the ballet-he thought it had no intellectuality about it. He was a drama man but also opera. He thought it had no intellectual content.  He was really quite surprised at the popularity of the ballet company. In ENSA in the army camp Les Sylphides used to go down a bomb with an audience full of soldiers, most of whom had never seen a ballet in their lives at that time. Facade was very popular because it was funny, witty. We did quite a lot of ENSA.

I had another thought about Guthrie. Anyway there was a split. I remember doing the performance of Faust because in those days the ballet danced in the operas; a lot of operas. It must have been 1940 after Holland. When did the Blitz start?

NS: 1940

MD: Well I remember we were performing at the Wells at this particular time. The season was just coming to an end-well yes, that makes sense because the theatre couldn’t be commandeered before the Blitz for homeless people. So it was just before the Blitz, the very beginning of it.

Disc 1 side 2 Track 3

MD: A friend of mine was ill and she was supposed to dance the ballet sequences in Faust. She had a blood clot, although we did not know it at the time. I made sure that she went back to the North of England where her parents were and I said I would go on for her. I had never been in Faust ever but I reckoned I could get through it. We didn’t feel that the performances in the Opera were quite as important as the ballet. We did not take them quite so seriously. Shocking! We were a little sloppy sometimes in the operas.

For one thing, de Valois wouldn’t be in front, in the audience. It wasn’t a very nice night. The sirens had gone, bombs were falling, the house was empty and I had great difficulty in finding all the bits and pieces of costume and I couldn’t find any frilly knickers. Frilly knickers were net that you wore on the top of your tights. The purpose is if your skirt flies up there is a mish mash disguise.

The ballet comes half way through Faust and I spent the evening on the roof looking at London burning. I think it was the night of that famous Jennings film of London burning, because I remember seeing St. Pauls back lit with fire. It was terrifying because the Wells is not far from St. Pauls.

I got through the little number and was hurrying to get away and Guthrie came round and slapped me. I can’t remember the words he used but he was furious. Apparently my skirt had come up a bit higher than it should and it looked as though I had nothing on underneath. I did have my tights on. On reflection I think he was so anxious about what was happening, that he took it out on me, because it was a nerve racking night. I walked home to my digs in Highbury, from theatre in the blackout with bombs falling. Got up the next morning and went to Kings Cross, but it was very nasty. War went on. We would arrive sometimes......I remember arriving in Bath to find the theatre on fire. There had been a raid the night before. We went round the rubble singing Swan Lake in case anyone was trapped in the rubble. The only person we found was Henry Robinson the stage manager, who had been putting fires out all night and had got something in his eye. That week was cancelled I think.

Mostly we just went on. Flying bombs in the London season were not much fun. Guthrie had a disagreement about policy with de Valois and we broke away from The Vic and the Opera and we were taken over by the management of Bronson Albery’s and that gave us a new theatre. It was an amicable arrangement. Guthrie and the ballet company shared the new theatre with the Vic. We would come in from tour, do four weeks at the Vic and go out again and the Vic would come in and go out again, as did the Opera. We were at the new theatre during the flying bombs.

Disc 1 Side 2 Track 4

MD: The performances for forces on leave had a very special quality to them and Bronson and Donald Albery, who ran the new theatre, realised there was a bigger audience than they could cope with on a Saturday. We used to do three performances on a Saturday, nine ballets- very tiring indeed. At two, five and eight. We didn’t leave the theatre. Donald Albery arranged for refreshments to be brought in and nobody thought anything of it, except it was hard work.

At the time we had become accustomed to the idea of continuous theatre like The Windmill. They never closed as they proudly said. We’d become accustomed to lunchtime music, theatre and ballet. The country had adapted itself to the conditions of the war. We didn’t think it extraordinary but three performances on one day was very tiring. At that time I was in every ballet in the repertoire doing big roles as well as small roles.

NS: ...And so the war goes on and the ballet goes on.

MD: I’d like to say something about...well this is post war. It’s about the BBC. There was no TV during the war. It started up again in ’46. Although I was still in the ballet company in ‘48/49. We did have a notion of what the BBC television were doing with regard to ballet. It was the era of items and of bringing over companies. I think you could call it the era of Philip Bate. He did an enormous amount of work and showed tremendous initiative. I have a note here which says he brought over the Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, Paris Opera Ballet, Roland Petit Ballet de Londo, they may have been in London and the Ballet Champs Elysses. These were important companies and they would have been possible with Lime Grove studios.

NS: Lime Grove was 1952

MD: Then he must have done these at Alexandra Palace. I also have a note about the importance of dance items in Picture Page. That was Cecil Madden, I think. The other great thing he did was ballet for beginners. That programme made an enormous difference to audience knowledge, which had grown immeasurably through the War, through the constant touring that we and small companies did. We went round Britain through ENSA that bringing ballets to the forces, that people had never seen before. So whereas before the War hardly anyone knew what ballet was, suddenly there was an audience for it.

I think that was March 1951 and that was not my first essay in choreography but an early one. She asked me after that if I could choreograph another ballet to put on television, on a theme of my own choosing. I created a ballet on the card game of Happy Families. That went down rather well. We did that several times. She asked me to do another ballet and I did one called Kitchen Carnival, where there was a March for the Cutlery and a Dance for a Feather Duster.

NS: Were you still with the Sadler’s Wells company?

MD: Yes

NS: So they let you off for this?

MD: I used to have to ask Ninette de Valois’ permission to do it. I did it in my own time. All the performances had to be a Sunday, when there was no performance at the Garden. I chose my cast from my colleagues in the company and these gave a high standard of performance to these small ballets for children. It was only possible because the television performances were on Sunday.

That went on for about five years. I did half a dozen, one a year on average for Mrs Capon. I do recall the difficulty was always finding a suitable place to rehearse. I couldn’t use the company’s rehearsal rooms. I remember rehearsing in a studio in Lime Grove which was just full of scenery. I had a corner where the rostrum was laid out, I remember.        

It would be the scene dock. I remember a man walking through one time and standing and admiring. I was making a dance for three boys. He was very impressed and his name was Bill Lyon Shaw. He later asked me to do a ballet for him for the radio show at Olympia. These little ballets for children were very successful and lead to other things.

NS: Did you ever appear in Philip’s shows?

MD: I do remember him coming to a rehearsal and do remember showing him the ‘White Cat pas de deux’ from The Sleeping Princess. I remember him sitting there and smiling and thinking this man is easy to please. He didn’t make any suggestions. He just sat there and lapped it up. It was his attitude-he loved the ballet. He didn’t attempt to shape it or present it in any way. He just let it happen. He brought over what he thought was the best and he let it happen.

Didn’t see much television from’46 on. For one reason we were performing. We didn’t have a set. Every year after ’49 we spent in the USA.

NS: Which company was this- Sadler’s Wells?

MD: No, no. In ’46 we went to Covent Garden. It was called the Sadler’s Wells Ballet. But we opened Covent Garden after the War. Feb. 1946 with the Sleeping Beauty and we shared the theatre with an Opera Company. Not the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company which was at Sadler’s Wells theatre, but with an opera Company which I suppose was formed by a policy of the general administrator of the Royal Opera House, David Webster, at that time. We did not perform every night, sharing the theatre with the Opera Group. We would play four times a week, the Opera twice. We did have an evening off but I never thought to watch TV at night-we went to the cinema, always. My next contract with television came whilst I was in America with the Company in ’51 or end of ’50.

I received a letter from Mrs Naomi Capon, saying that she was a producer in children’s TV and she understood that J. Newton’s ballet The Three Bears had been a success before the war and she would like to revive it. Newton herself was in Turkey and Miss Newton had suggested that I might be able to remember it and reproduce it for her. Miss Capon asked whether I would be willing to do that and I wrote back and said ‘Yes!’ What I couldn’t remember I would make up, in the style of the piece, if that was all right. I got together the original father bear, Lesley Edwards, a new cast and put it on. It went down quite well. Mrs Capon asked me to do another ballet.

NS: Did Mrs Capon produce or direct it? Who?

MD: She directed it. I don’t recall it.  She was a producer. That was the title. The title ‘director’ didn’t exist. The duties were not split. If you were a producer, you directed it. The same in the theatre in this country. If you were a producer you also directed the production. She certainly directed the cameras.

NS: We are now 1954 ish?

MD: I had done a ballet in ’53 called Trojan and Tilly. It was about a pantomime horse. So we establish it.

NS: You obviously felt that television was important. I mean you are explaining your gradual passage from theatre into television and how it happened, which is very interesting. Television is an important medium for putting across ballet as well as other things.

MD: I didn’t think of it quite like that the. We didn’t earn large salaries. I saw the choreography I was doing for Mrs Capon as a source of income, but one I very much enjoyed. I mean it was reasonably well paid. I was a soloist at Covent Garden, but I had a very small salary. We all did. At the time I wanted to become a choreographer. I think what has to be realised is dancers in the ballet company had, in those days, very small horizons. The dancing gives you at quite an early age. Classical dancing gives you up in your mid-30s, if not earlier. In those days there were 3 options. You could get married and leave; be a ballet mistress/teacher; or a choreographer. One didn’t see any other possibilities. I thought I had some creative ability-I didn’t know the measure of it. I knew I had to think about what I would do when I left the ballet. I was married but I didn’t want to become a ‘has been’ dancer.  I wanted to stop while I was still at peak, I left it a little late. You can if you are a star, you can choose what you will do and control it; but as a soloist you have to do what you are told- the roles are given you. You get fewer and fewer roles.

NS: Television solved your dilemma in the end?

MD: Yes it did, but it came about in an indirect way. Sir George Barnes went to Ninette de Valois at some time in the 50s.

NS: He was managing director of television?

MD: Yes and then Director of television Broadcasting. I think he had come from the Third Programme. He went to de Valois and asked her for her advice on how to improve the quality of ballet on television. He thought that there was a great deal of ballet on television, which indeed there was in the post war period. However he wasn’t sure it was quite good enough and quite frankly I think he wanted a permanent arrangement with Sadler’s Wells Ballet at the Opera House. I think it has to be remembered, that in the post-war period, theatre people did not think very highly of television and most of them were grappling with the stringencies of the post-war period. There was rationing, coupons and you couldn’t make costumes.

It was very difficult to run a theatre at this time, post-war Britain-the Festival of Britain. They hadn’t the time or the inclination to bother with television. They were very suspicious of it. Television did not reach all over the country. It was black and white and only a few people had sets. Against that, when de Valois said she didn’t want to know anything about television, she wasn’t being rude to Sir George Barnes. She did tell him that she didn’t know anything about television and she couldn’t help him, but there was a girl in her company who was always asking permission to do television, if that was any help. Why didn’t he talk to her? Whether de Valois had any other thoughts! Was this a good way of getting rid of Dale? I mean by that time i had been in the company for more than 15 years, which is quite a long time. What happened was, I received an invitation to lunch from Mr George Barnes at Broadcasting House. I put on my best clothes and my best hat and de Valois told me what he had said and I should go to see this man and try and help him.

He asked me a few questions. I told him how to run television. I had no thoughts in those days of giving up dancing. It was not really in my mind and looking back, I must have been very cheeky, very arrogant and very........ I dread to think!  Fortunately he was highly amused. At the end of lunch he said ‘Well, young lady, if you ever want to do something with television, let me know’.

I went off and more or less forgot all about it.

NS: There were just two of you at this lunch?

MD: Yes- I think we had another American tour after that. The time came two years later; I began to think I must give up dancing. I was offered a part in a review. I thought that might be fun, but not going to lead anywhere. So I dropped a note to Sir George Barnes saying ‘Did you mean what you said that day? because I think I might like to join television’.

He was on the phone the next day. ‘Come and see me’. A totally different demeanour. He was not amused. He was not charming but extremely severe. I started to feel frightened. ‘Now young lady, you’ve got to realise, if you are serious, we’ll train you, not guarantees, won’t guarantee a job but you must think what it will mean to leave the company. It will mean leave of absences for 6 months. How are you going to get into practice after six months if we don’t offer you a job? Think about it. We’ll train you, we’ll pay you £14 a week. No promises’.

So I thought. I telephoned Wendy Toy who I have always liked and trusted and said ‘What do you think about it?’ ‘Do it’ she said. That confirmed what I wanted to do.

It was a big step but I did it. I joined the trainee producer course in 1954.

Disc 1  Side 3  Track 1

NS: Now the course

MD: I was invited to join the television production course, producers course and I had a little letter from a Miss Ferguson dated 19th October 1954. I left the Royal Ballet on the 7th November 1954 in Genoa. We were on tour. It was a very strange experience. I was leaving all my friends, my husband and my whole life.

I took a train across the south of France all alone, where I’d had many happy holidays with friends of the Royal Ballet. The course started on the 10th November 1954. I think there would be about 14 or 15 people, about that size. Royston Morley was the course director. Most of the people on the course were already in the BBC. There was one other girl like myself, Marie Bingham, who later married Geoff Barnes. One person with whom I made friends on that course was John Mair? Who went into planning. I don’t remember where we met, but I remember going to Great Portland Street station, so it probably was somewhere around there. We had lecturers. I don’t remember them all, but one that stands out was Michael Barry and it was stream of consciousness. I mean it wasn’t at all clear about what he was really saying, but it sounded terribly interesting. He didn’t address his talk at us, but at the air, at the Universe. It was like sitting in on something private. I remember Ronnie Waldman, who I found a relief in some ways, because it was very showbiz, very straight. I did know what he was talking....

NS: He was Head of Light Entertainment

MD: Yes

NS: And Michael Barry Head of Drama?

MD: I don’t remember who came from talks. I think Grace Wyndham Goldie did come but whether it was this course or another one, I am not sure. I think Leonard Mile talked to us about the Booking Dept. Could it have been Freda Lingstrom* who talked to us about the Children’s dept? I’m pretty certain that the person from the Design dept was Roy Oxley. I don’t remember Dick Lemmon coming. The reason I am certain about Roy Oxley is that I had seen the famous television production of 1984 and he was Big Brother. The real Roy Oxley was quite different from Big Brother as seen on the screen. You were talking to a designer you had seen on the screen acting a part.

I do remember Mr Robert Silvie, audience research. That was completely new to me. I had never come into contact with any statistical organisation of any kind. In the theatre you count the house, you count the take but you don’t do research on your audience. That made me think there was a way of finding out what the television audience really was. The course put a great deal of emphasis on the television audience. They put more emphasis on the viewer, potential viewer, and present viewer than on productions. I came away from the course feeling that.

I was totally mystified by the sound lectures. In the theatre you don’t think about sound except as music. I had never thought about sound as sound. I had never worked in an area where a microphone was so important. It was totally new, mystifying and I became impatient that it was not necessarily for me to learn about sound. There would be somebody else who knew or do it for me. I found the lectures on sound incredibly boring and there were a lot of them.

NS: Can you remember who gave you those talks?

MD:  No, not on sound. I can only say that later I learnt a great deal about sound from Glyn Allkin and Alan Edmunds.

Disc 1  Side 3 Track 2

NS: Presumably the course was successful. I mean you continued?

MD: There were six weeks of lectures. Then there was an attachment, but at the end of the lectures we had to produce exercises and we were divided into groups (3 or 4 groups). Not everyone got the chance to direct cameras. I was not allocated an opportunity with cameras and I thought ‘how am I going to show anybody what I can do? So I had a word with Marie Bingham who had been given 15mins and wanted to do a recital with Lina Lalandi, harpsichordist. I made a deal with Marie and said can I have 5 mins of your 15 and she agreed. I went to John Mayer* and gave him and idea for a sort of human cartoon. Would he write some rhythmic couplets to which I could choreograph? There was no possibility of music. This all had to be done at very short notice. I did not think I could find 5 mins of a record at very short notice. Miss Lina Lalandi wasn’t going to play. I wanted to do a sort of choreographic cartoon and I asked Moira Fraser. She had left the ballet and become a great comedian. It was a good idea to make people laugh- they would be more likely to remember it.

I knew Moira could be very funny without speaking. So I asked John Mayer* to write this, not doggerel, there was a kind of theme to it. It had to have rhythm and I rehearsed Moira to drumbeats to the rhythm of the speech. I created a very funny one man show of three minutes in length with her just sitting on a stool. It was funny, it did make everyone laugh. I didn’t encroach on Marie’s time. I think Ronnie Waldman saw it, but that was my purpose for people to see it.

Then I went on the attachment after six weeks. We were asked where we would like to go. I wanted to go to drama and light entertainment but I was told I was to be attached to music. Music were not really ready for me. At the end of 1954, beginning of 1955, because I remember joining the Music Department and they were totally engrossed in a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, the Menotti Company with Chris Simpson. They were so busy with that, they didn’t really want to know me. I asked if I could do shorter attachments all around the place, but I was aware that the BBC was a large organisation. There seemed to be no objection to that. Somebody made some arrangements, but I was told Drama wouldn’t have me or couldn’t, so I asked if I could do a bit in talks. I did two weeks in talks, whilst there was a newspaper strike on. That was a great insight as to how the television service liked or expected its producers to have initiative. In a ballet company you are told what to do. Initiative is not welcomed, it is a nuisance. So this was a new notion and in a way I had always expected it.

Disc 1 Side 3 Track3

MD: Yes it was fascinating during that newspaper strike to find out how the producers decided themselves. You must have been there.

NS: Yes I was in talks department.

MD: yes to make a daily newspaper. Paul Johnston?

NS: He was there.

MD: Donald Baverstock?

NS: Yes

MD: I don’t know in whose office I sat. I did various little jobs fetching people tea and coffee.

NS: Panorama was on the air at that time.

MD: That’s right-I remember.

NS: With Michael Peacock?

MD: I don’t recall coming into personal contact with Michael. I do remember being helpful after programmes in the hospitality suite. We used to act as a sort of maid, bringing you know...I remember.

NS: Very creative

MD: Well it was very useful. One was able to observe people, for instance and listen in on conversations that one wouldn’t otherwise know anything about. I remember forming opinions about Malcolm Muggeridge. It was very interesting seeing people off screen after you were just seeing them on camera. It was a different thing. Remember Hugo Nett.*            It was a very useful little attachment that. Then I had a little attachment to the Film Dept. White gloves, cement joins and hang up trims.

NS: This was at Ealing?

MD: Yes. I wish I could remember who that editor was. I don’t think it was Alan.NS: Was It James Kalina?

MD: No before him. We are talking about 1955.

MS: It could have been Eddie Morstow.

MD: Well what I’ve found. You see again it was very interesting for me just to be in the canteen at Ealing. People were very friendly. I learnt an enormous amount in those days, just by listening in on other people talking. It was all new, it was all interesting. The only boring conversations that I ever had to listen to were the Music Department meetings and worse than those were the Regional Heads of Music Department Meetings. I felt about them the way I felt about school. It had nothing to do.... Talks Department was lively. Ealing was lively. Music Department seemed to me to be half dead. Anyway my next attachment was a longer one with light entertainment and I went to see Ronnie Waldman and he agreed that I could be around his dept. He attached me to Ken Carter. I did the Benny Hill Show and the David Nixon Show and that was quite fun. That brought me into contact with comedy writers and it was a world that I could relate to. It was very spontaneous.

Benny had all his material which he got from Bumper fun books, but I think we often needed material for the Dixon show. At that time, Ray Galton, Alan Simpson and Eric Sykes had an office down in Shepherd’s Bush above a house somewhere conveniently placed before Bertorelli’s restaurant.

These shows were fortnightly. Benny Hill one week and David Nixon the next.

There would often be a sketch that didn’t work and Ken would call in the writers and I thought it was wonderful. They came in like gangsters ready to put the place right and from nothing they would work up something and they would work, often, all night.

Disc 1 Side 3 Track 4

MD: I loved talking to Galton and Simpson. I often asked them about books because Benny was so independent on his bumper fun book for ideas and at that time they said they only used two reference books, I think. Everything else just came out of conversation. Well I quite enjoyed Eric Sykes too. They were awfully friendly. They were the kind of theatre people in a way, many just like the theatre people I knew.

NS: They also, of course came from radio. I mean Galton and Simpson wrote Hancock’s Half Hour for example and Eric Sykes began in radio.

MD: Yes

NS: He’s broadcasting, all broadcasting.

MD: Ken Carter was very kind to me and he suggested that I go to Ronnie and ask for time. A spot, a slot. So I went to Ronnie and said ‘how about it?’ I think there was a little programme called Starlight. I was given a Starlight. I don’t remember how many weeks I had or how much time I had to prepare it. Ken was to look after me. Ken said: ‘do the Bevs, Maggie. They are popular, they come knowing what they are doing-  do the Bevs’.

So I got in touch with the Beverley Sisters. I learnt a lot from the Bevs. Those people do not always feel the same way about what you ask them to do. You would ask Joy, the central Bev about something and she would be delighted and then Babs would say no and the other Bev, the name of whom I’ve forgotten....... (MD tails off)...I was used to artists doing what you tell them to and these three, although they were united, they fought between themselves all the time and then they forgot you, they would unite against you. It was a real lesson in dealing with artists other than dancers. The Bevs thought I had class. They thought I was a cut above. I came from a world that was a bit different.

I didn’t give them the setting they were accustomed to, partly because it wasn’t to my taste and I didn’t know there was that kind of setting. Design Department  had allocated Lawrence Fraudhouse *  and I loved Lawrence, he was lovely. We made a very simple attractive setting for the Bevs and he thought it rather distinguished. We had no sequins or nonsense and they changed their dresses, I think, into something simpler. It went off all right.

NS: Were you still on attachment. Had you come to the end of year attachment period?

MD: Almost. It was the end of the attachment and I was aware that I had to prove myself by the end of the attachment. I was offered a one year contract. Whether that was as a result of the Bevs or whether they had decided they would offer me one year, I don’t know. I think I got the message that I was not to mess around in other departments any longer. I was to go to Music. That was the message. I thought I had a date…

NS: Some time in 1955?

MD: Yes I’ve got all my contracts

Disk 1 Side 3 Track 5

MD: Well again I had to prove myself. There were three stages of proving yourself:  on the course, on the air, in the departments, on the posts.

I found a Music Department totally obsessed with the problems of putting music on television. Everything seemed to be led by music in Broadcasting House. I don’t know whether William Glock was at that time ’55 Head of Music?

NS: Not yet.

MD: What about Hans Keller? Keller was certainly a name that was mentioned. I didn’t know him. Kenneth Wright who was Head of music seemed awfully concerned to please Broadcasting House with his output. Just as I said the children’s TV Department had strong links with earlier policies, the Music Department had these very strong links about the importance of music on radio. The ideas came over what was good music and what was not good music. In those days there was good music and music that was not good. There was no question of music being music and there being all kinds of music. It was either good or bad. Just as art was either high art or low art. I do remember once when I was doing one of my ballets for Naomi, she had to please the Music Department. I think it must have been my little ballet about the pantomime horse, because I set it in a kind of circus and I chose Sousa. Naomi said ‘the music department won’t like that, you’d better go and explain.

I went over (before I was employed) and I had a meeting with James Hartley who at that time was organiser or assistant. He wasn’t going to make serious suggestions, but he did say wasn’t there any better music I could choose? I said I didn’t see anything wrong with Sousa, I thought it was awfully appropriate for what I was doing. He gave in. It was a hurdle one had to go through. There were awful difficulties when I arrived in the Music Department. Almost everything. How can they create so many obstacles? I thought what is Sir George Barnes doing? Asking me to improve the quality of ballet on television, when the conditions are not there. The working conditions couldn’t have been designed better to militate against production. There were no rehearsal rooms and any rehearsal rooms were dank and dirty.

NS: Where were they?

MD: Church halls all over London. That made creating or commissioning a ballet for television, extraordinary difficult and unpleasant for the people. The first hurdle and the most difficult thing was the budget. I found that the music Department had allocated a budget of £900 for ballet. That was it. I read all the directives from Equity and the Musician’s Union and all........Fortnum and Bennett. It was perfectly clear you could not do a ballet for £900, if you obeyed the rules. If there was a small company who would accept a £900 package and supply you with something that was a possibility. There was no way you could actively do anything.

Side 3 Track 6

NS: So what did you do on £900?

MD: I went to Kenneth Macmillan who was not very well known, but he was trying to do choreography and had put on a very interesting piece at Sadler’s Wells, which I liked. I said ‘Could we do something to records which the BBC has all the rights?’ He was quite keen to have a go. He derives a lot of his choreographic ideas from music and we spent a little time in the gramophone library. We went through all the discs to which the BBC had all the rights and Ken said ‘Well I can do something to that’. All different orchestras and kinds of music-a real hotch potch. They had rhythm and some charm. It was certainly not good music but it was the kind of thing we can dance to.

At that time the Royal Ballet were out of the country in the United States, so we could only draw on either people who had been left behind, or people we knew from, what we might call the commercial world. We rustled up a group of talent. They had all become famous. I refused to use any of the BBC rehearsal rooms. I wasn’t going to subject any dancers of that quality to those filthy conditions.

I managed to persuade Central Services to make a contract with Eddie Espinosa, who had a very nice, clean, warm little studio in Barnes. Eddie let us have his studio for the period of time that it took to arrange this ballet. It had to be a kind of divertissement, a review.

NS: How long was it?

MD: 30 mins. I had Music at Ten. It was our slot. It was a thirty minute slot.

Kenneth and I chose about 20 minutes of disc, so there was 10 minutes to deal with. I said it had to be speech, introductions of some kind. I asked a young actor at the Old Vic if he would be willing to play the part of a kind of Diaghilev figure. John Neville and John were not well known, just coming up. These people were just on the verge of a career. There was great talent there and Kenneth created some extremely amusing dances. We brought over Violette de Verdy from the Paris Opera to do a pas de deux with Gilbert Vernon from the Royal Ballet. We had absolutely minimal costumes, nothing more nor less than practice clothes. We dressed John Neville in full evening dress, top hat and made him into a sort of Diaghilev figure. Ian Dallas wrote me a nice little script which was evocative rather than presentational. It gave a sense of what was to come rather than ‘now it is a dance about twins’. He gave a little piece, quite poetic, that led into what was to follow. I think the whole piece was fresh, witty and original. Kenneth put in very original choreographic ideas. We all enjoyed ourselves enormously.

Track 7

MD: I was obsessed with cameras at the time and I had a viewfinder. Everything Kenneth did I looked at through the viewfinder. I drew all the camera positions and their view on certain lenses, on the floor. I had formed ideas about lenses quite easily. I did not like the use of wide angled lenses because it distorted distance. Distance and space are very important parts of movement. It only makes sense if you know it is in relation to a space. I worked out everything on a 24 degree lens and said no wide angled lenses would be used.

The rehearsal room was not as large as G, but we made the area of the rehearsal room and used every bit of it. In the rehearsal room, there were no cameras. So I reproduced the actual size of the rehearsal room in the studio, and had all my shots drawn up on the floor again. To the amazement of the chief cameraman Sidney Lottebe who said, ‘what’s all this? I said ‘Those are all your positions.’

So it was all planned in great detail, went out live and when I got back home that night at 11pm, we were on air until 10.30-I didn’t live far away, the telephone rang. Mr MacGivern’s voice said ‘What was all that about then?’ So that was a bit of a shock. We thought we had done rather well and we had enjoyed it and we knew we had some style.

‘Come and see me’. So I went to see him. Oh before I went to see him, there was another row. Next Monday morning in the Music Department there was great consternation. The Musicians Union had been on the phone- how was it that these orchestras etc.?.... Kenneth Wright was very perturbed and thought that I had used gramophone records. I said no, every one of those discs the BBC has rights to. I was not going to break the rules. They were rather dumbfounded by this, but it was a fact. So they reported back to the Musicians Union that all the discs had BBC rights. The Musicians Union would have to accept this. They weren’t very pleased because they saw a loophole.

I then explained-how else could I have done anything? I think what we did come to £850. I came in under budget. Mr. MacGivern relented – it was just a divertissement. He said that there seemed to be significance but one couldn’t get at it. He said I don’t think the viewers would get at it. I think we got the worst audience figures that had ever been at that time.

NS: You mean in terms of size or appreciation?

MD: Appreciation. So all those things put together made me think more about audience because clearly the audience who watched television were not the people I knew who came to the theatre.

Disc 1 Side 4 Track 1

NS: Can you begin with the title Kenneth MacMillan Half Hour?

MD: We called it Turned out Proud which was a very amusing title and something to do with dancers being turned out and were proud of it. It was not meant to be factual or anything. Nor was it meant to be obscure. We just thought it was fun.

I thought it might be useful to say something about the kind of time that we had in the studio in those days in 1955. We already mentioned that the budget for a new ballet or indeed any ballet, a new ballet had to be paid for in the same way as a package deal with an existing company and the budget then was £900, which was quite impossible. The working conditions in the studio were also impossible really for new work. We had no previous setting and lighting, so that on one day, which began at 8:30 there were two hours  for setting and lighting and I think that meant getting rid of the set that had been put there for the previous evening. It was not just setting, it was striking and setting, which is a double occupation. Camera rehearsals went from 10:30 to 1.

In the case of Turned out Proud, I used the first half hour with cameras only basically explaining to the floor cameramen what their positions would be and what they could expect, because I didn’t want to tire the artists. If I had dancers dancing from 10:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night they would be in shreds. I mean it is not reasonable. So I used them for the first half hour 10:30 to 11, talking and explaining what they were expected to do with the cameramen themselves. At the same time lighting was going on. With the artists we worked from 11-1 and they were in costume with props. Then the artists worked from 2-7, a five hour period and then we had a run through from 8 until 9.15. If you work that out it comes to less than 15 minute camera rehearsal per minutes screen time, which is frankly not enough to bring everything together. Artists, camera, design, lighting and music; it is ludicrous. I don’t think those kind of things were ever thought out in any details in those days. I am not complaining, it’s the way things were. I must say it didn’t remain that way.

NS: Did it improve?

MD: It did improve because I pushed for it, made people realise but the attitude in television at that time was really that you brought in your artists and cameras grabbed what they could. The detail of what the artists did was not really though out, not analysed – it was a catch a catch can situation and I know and you can check with Sid Lotterby that at that time he was quite surprised that everything was organised in such detail. The other thing that might be worth mentioning about the past that for some reason we were not allowed typed scripts on white paper. I think this was something to do with image orthicon cameras, which were supposed to respond rather badly to any form of glare. So in 1955 scripts were on a rather brownish yellow paper. How they thought cameras were going to see scripts is another matter altogether. It must have been a habit of cameramen to leave their scripts on some part of the camera, maybe, because their camera cards were certainly on white card-it is a curious little old fashioned rule which I don’t understand.

If it is all right with Norman, I would like to say something about the rows that occurred after Turned out Proud. It made me aware that the audience that watched television was not the audience that I as a dancer knew up and down the country. So I remembered Mr. Silvie’s lectures during the training course and I asked him if he would undertake or if his department [would undertake] a research on ballet on television. I didn’t put it wider than that. I didn’t mention dance of other cultures or any other form of dance. I asked specifically for ballet and it was  both interesting and desperately depressing, the results.

They did research. I have some quotes here from the public. I can’t remember how large a sample it was or indeed what percentage of the television it covered in those days. The audience report came up with the following sort of remarks. That ballet was not entertaining because it was an art. I thought that was very strange. People didn’t understand what a ballet was. They thought it was a story without words, which what not always clear. Which seemed to me they were not accustomed to looking at movement or the images made by movement. There are number of remarks that the sight of men in tights was embarrassing. Almost all comments on male dancers were unflattering. Mostly it was the strain of looking for a meaning. Having spent 17 years in the ballet I found that absolutely extraordinary. I couldn’t understand why people needed a meaning other than the movement itself, which seemed to me be very clear. It was obvious they were not used to thinking in terms of images, especially moving images.

The other important aspect is that more than half of 58% of the sample liked dancing themselves. They liked ballroom dancing. They liked Old Time dancing, Scottish Reels, they liked the TV toppers and above all they liked Victor Sylvester. They didn’t understand Classical Ballet. My reaction to this was disbelief on several counts. As I said from the outbreak of war until 1939 the moment when television returned, I had been performing     in the country from Bristol to Aberdeen and in USA to packed houses, large and enthusiastic audiences. What it boiled down to was the people who went to the theatre didn’t watch television. The people who went to the theatre saw television as a very poor substitute. I thought I had to do something about that.

One thing I thought I had to do was search for strong male dancers, familiar music. I had to look at how ballets were presented. I hadn’t at that time got around to thinking about documentaries. I was only aware of performance. The notion of programmes about ballet, other than ballet for beginners was something that only came with Monitor later. The result of that audience research report led to three things on my part. I determined to commission ballets for television because I thought television ought to do new work. At the same time I thought I ought to present the classics in such a way because the audience research report indicated that the audience were interested in familiar music in Tchaikovsky, Delibes and so on. They could manage that in a way they couldn’t manage a contemporary score and abstract ballet. In fact my decisions were made for me. I have always had a wide interest in all kinds of dance, particularly in the dance of other cultures.  In 1955 we moved into an era of visiting companies in London. We moved into an era when dance and drama companies from all over the world came into London. The next step is the reflection on television of those other companies and I would say that the world theatre that Peter Daubery brought to London was tremendously influential. We had a cultural invasion of world theatre in the 50’s. Many of which were on television. In 1955 Sunday night at 10 o’clock did Yugoslav National Ballet Company, Antonio and his ballet Espangnol, the Bulgarian state Song and Dance company at the Winter T Garden and the Chinese Theatre company and the Paris Opera ballet all done by other producers.

NS: Were they in the Music Department or Light Entertainment?

MD: Pretty mixed. I think it was Music Department- Philip Bate. The only point I am trying to make was that BBC TV reflected this cultural invasion which was in my opinion a very good thing. The companies which Peter Daubeny brought over which influenced me personally, in 1951  Catherine  Dunn, Roland Petit, Martha Graham, Tinies Classic Theatre from Formosa   Ensemble at the Palace theatre, Moscow Arts theatre at Sadler’s Wells, Look back in Anger made a difference to one’s attitude. That was George Devine, Royal Court. There was a cultural change at that time which affected everything. New attitudes. I do remember laughing my head of at […] from the comedy La Francais. Then there was Marie Belle at the Savoy Theatre and a bit later in the ‘50s there was Ingmar Bergman’s  Faust at The Princess Theatre. All those made a great difference to the background in which one worked. Perhaps all the more exciting because of the not so long ago we had all been locked up in this country and not been able to see anything else. It was like windows opening all over the place and very stimulating. I will tell you two naughty stories.

I got a request one day from Kenneth Wright to see somebody on his behalf, an Indian gentleman. So I went across to meet this gentleman. I don’t remember who he was but there was distinction in his manner. I was just trying to cover for Kenneth. The Indian gentleman had some tapes that he hoped Kenneth would listen to, presumably with a view to broadcasting. I listened to the tapes and I thought they were wonderful. I had no knowledge whatsoever of Indian Music. I don’t know the name of the man or who was on the tapes but I thought it might be Ravi Shankar. I think it was a diplomat and not Ravi Shankar. I expressed my enthusiasm for the tapes and said I was sorry Kenneth could not be there. I went and told Kenneth I thought it was wonderful, but he wasn’t interested. That was that.

The other story which was not a credit to the Music Department at that time and perhaps I shouldn’t be telling it. There was a great fuss about a composer who was coming from America and wanted to have the opportunity on air. Kenneth Wright and James Hartley were in a terrible tizz because they suspected this composer was a phoney. They were terribly worried as to whether they should put this thing on the air or whether it was so avant garde they didn’t understand it. I happened to know about certain dance companies in the USA who were doing very good work. They were intimately connected to this composer who was John Cage. He came into Studio D and did a piece called the prepared piano. I had every confidence as a musician and intellectual and I was very amused that entire music department were being taken for a ride or it was a avant  garde approach. I lost a lot of respect for them because they ought to know the necessary judgement to decide whether it was real or not.

NS: What happened?

MD: Well nothing. Everyone was very polite. They didn’t have the confidence or background. They were always driven their ideas in music for BBC Radio. There was never any idea that music might be taken in any direction. This attitude was also in the dance. Ballroom dancing was low class because low class people did ballroom. There was a division which reflected the class division in the country which is being applied to the arts. It has always seemed to me to be absolutely ludicrous. I cannot myself see any class division in dance. There are innumerable forms of dance but there are all forms of dance as there are forms of music. Music Dept. in the ‘50s never thought of jazz- low jazz was not permissible. It was not the BBC attitude but one that was held within the country. Fortunately it has changed.

Well we’ve touched on the cultural invasion of the theatre. The first company that I directed which could be said was dance from other cultures was in 1955 was the Palio Espagnol*. This was quite a famous gypsy dance, when I say gypsy, it is the dance of an area of Southern Spain that is very much tied up with the historical.

NS: Andalucia?

MD: Yes and it goes back to the time when Philip of Spain threw out the gypsies. It is a very particular form of song and dance. I rather went to town on the Ballet Espagnol. The company was appearing at the Palace Theatre and I selected some items from their programme that I liked and would make an interesting divertissements.  It wasn’t a story but I had to bind those divertissements together in some way just as I had done in ‘Turned out proud’. I remember the holidays in Spain and the Feries.  I thought I would set it in a sort of Feries. The first thing that I did was to hire a horse. I had to put a horse in a lift.

I had a designer allocated to the programme who had never worked in television. He was an outside contract man and not employed by the BBC. I used to come into London to talk to him about the set. He had never been to Spain. I wanted to give an impression of the Feries in Spain. He caught on and produced a wonderful set. He was called Clifford Halz.*

I went on in this area with visiting companies who had dance in other cultures.

NS: Were these in the same dance slot?

MD: Yes, 30 minutes which is a long time in dance.

NS: What was the budget?

MD: These were all packages. Generally speaking the impresario had brought them over and was quite pleased to accept a package. I don’t think the individuals got anything the Equity minimum. Dance of other culture does not usually carry an orchestra. They have individual musicians- the programme is mixed with instrumentalists. It is cheaper than classical ballet. The range was marvellous and gave me an education. After Fernandez I did Fodeba Ballet African. It was a highly reputable ballet company from Senegal. Then there was the Polish State Dance company, a great pleasure to work with. Then The Urals Ensemble, The Ukranian Dance Company, a West Indian Company, National Dance of Ceylon, The Georgian State Dance Company, Phillipine Dance Company, Romanian Dance. I received an education in dance which made a huge difference. From the mid-50s to mid-60s that was a very important ingredient in the programmes I did.

NS: What was the audience response?

MD: Good. It was because most of the companies had extremely virile male dancers. The African Ballet Company got very poor figures, people didn’t like it. There was a resistance to Asian dance-too remote. There was an immediate acceptance of European dance. The Spanish companies were popular mainly because of the charisma of the stars. It was very compelling. British public were afraid of romantic, softer dance. They admired toughness in dancing, macho. No poetic element-just athletic movement.

NS: Were the transmission of these, your ideas?

MD: They were my ideas. I never consulted Kenneth Wright. I tried to be tactful. I would say such and such a company would be at the Palace on......... There was never any resistance. I think they were worried at filling this slot, every half hour every Sunday night. He was grateful for anything, anyone would suggest. He was very kind to me.

During the same period ’55 – ‘65 I did continue to attempt to commission work. I took the opportunity to create a tap dance concerto. An orchestral programme included a tap dance concerto written by Morton Gould, an American composer. It seemed a terrible waste just for that to be played on an instrument. I commissioned Irvin Davis who was doing a lot of work in light entertainment and whom I respected. He was to reinvent the tap dance which was written in the score. Irvin knew enough about tap dance to be able to reproduce a dance number which had all the requisite number of beats.

One of the most helpful people in this creation, I have to put on record, was the rehearsal pianist Winnie Taylor. This leads me to pay tribute to the quality of BBC pianists. We had three pianists from the BBC who were unsung, uncredited, unrecorded, who did an enormous amount of valuable work every production I did. Patrick Harvey, Tom McCall and Winnie Taylor. Winnie made clear to Irvin where the beats were in the score and he produced the movements and that produced those beats and then we worked it in with the orchestra. It was not a long item but it was a terribly interesting one. I don’t know if anyone noticed it at the time but it was interesting for me and I think Irvine enjoyed it. The next commission I put into practice.

I had been working in Paris with a man, then unknown, now extremely famous in theatre work, Jacques Lecoq. I asked Jacques if he would arrange a mime to ‘Peter and the Wolf’. He agreed. I asked Gillian Lynne, dancer, now famous theatre director, if she would be willing to work with Lecoq and not dance but mime the story while in the background the orchestra was going on and the built in story. I also if you have one artist I only need one camera. So we worked out a movement plan with mime which only needed one camera which was still full of variety of pictures.

Then I began to think the difficulty of doing new work. It was not producing the kind of results I wanted. I organised a choreographer’s conference. That led in the 60s to several things.  At the same time I was doing classical ballets, that is to say performances of ballets from the repertoire of world companies such as the Royal Swedish Ballet. I was mounting classics myself from start. I discovered that the audience had feeling for Coppelia, for Giselle, for Sleeping Beauty and Les Sylphides. I assembled a cast which is virtually assembling a company and teaching everyone every step from start to finish and then putting it in studio on camera and so on.

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The thing that made people really sit up and notice was the visit of the Bolshoi Ballet. They came to England with Ulanova. I was able to persuade them to our newly opened Riverside studios. Lime Grove had problems with height etc. Riverside had its own problems with low ceiling which made it extremely difficult when a ballerina was lifted because you could not pan up and follow because you brought in the whole ceiling. The cameras were not allowed to pan up to lights because the tube went. As technological improved it became less of a hazard. The visit of the Bolshoi was a milestone. The director Mr Bedell   came to Riverside and gave Ulanova a bouquet of flowers. Everyone was very impressed. It was quite a big operation because the company was a large company. I asked them to do Swan Lake because that was the most popular although at that time they did not have Swan Lake in the repertory at Covent Garden at this time. I manage to persuade the director that that was what the public expected from a Russian ballet company. He and Ulanova agreed to do the second Act which she hadn’t done for a long. It went very smoothly despite the size of the operation. I brought them into a rehearsal room at the Hammersmith at an RCA building which the Royal ballet used to use. Rehearsals were conducted by Asaf Messerer    who I loved instantly because he looked very like my father. He was very easy to work with and understanding and authorative. He made very few alterations to the choreography but explained where the cameras would be. They were not unused to television. It was agreed that another dancer would rehearse for Ulanova and she would come in just at the last minute. The rehearsals were very straight forward; the company knew what they were doing. The orchestra was in Riverside two live; the ballet was in Riverside one live. I employed a number of interpreters for the corps de ballet, one for the conductors, one for the ballet master although he had a good command of English. I issued what I call an Order of the Day timetable, a schedule in Russian so every member of the company knew what was expected of them. What time buses would arrive and they didn’t have to pay for their meal- the canteen would just serve them with whatever they wanted. It really went very smoothly.  I don’t know that any other producer could have done it in quite the same way, because at that time, although Philip Bate, Chris Simpson and Paddy Foy had a love of ballet they were not intimately aware of how a ballet company worked. The strength that I had was intimate knowledge as to how companies worked, what dancers need to know and I made the necessary practical arrangements. In addition I knew the ballets intimately not just what I used to do as a swan in Swan Lake but what it used to look like. From the earliest times I have known my own part in a ballet and the parts everyone else plays. I’ve known what it looked like from the front with lights, decor and orchestra. That is not necessary the case with all dancers. Some dancers just know what they did; some dancers just know what happened on the stage. They do not have the imagination of what it looks out front. I always knew both sides of a ballet from behind and from front. And I think that is why I was able to reproduce them.     

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NS: We are still between ’55 and ’65.

MD:   The choreographer’s conference which I organised was ’63. That really led to a series called Zodiac, not very successful, but was very interesting to do. For three reasons:- I auditioned for a group of dancers. I picked what I thought were the finest independent dancers in London. The dancers who were not in companies and were freelance, who were sensitive, great technical ability and could be worked into a group. I thought they were worthy of good choreography and the choreographers conference that I held was intended to stimulate the choreographers that  worked in television, in musicals. The freelance choreographer rather than choreographer attached to a company. I had respect for them and I thought they deserved greater opportunities than they got in the run of the mill light entertainment show. Those were the reasons I went into Zodiac, also I wanted to experiment with technical things, pictures and overlay. All those new things that were coming along but not for novelties sake, but for some artistic purpose. We are still in black and white.      

I commissioned Peter Darrell, of the Western Theatre Ballet to do a number of ballets, notably ‘House Party’ 1964 which we entered for the Italia prize. I think it was ahead of its time it wasn’t appreciated. I thought it had merit. The dancers I had employed were keen to work on the programme. They had the opportunity of working with a wide variety of choreographers. I did promise them that there would be major choreographers in this series as well as those they would be familiar with. What I forgot, what I didn’t realise was that major choreographers wanted only their own dancers. They were not willing to work with dancers they didn’t have a close relationship already. I had a poor script. I had asked light entertainment to suggest to me writers who would be able to provide linking material. Again light hearted, comic. I was also interested in comedy and I wanted light hearted comic linking material. I was trying to build a show for dancers, in which there would be very imaginative and classy choreography created for television rather than stage. Well the writer that was recommended to me and whom I accepted, because time was running out, was not the right man. I should have sacked him and found somebody else but time caught up with one. We were doing a show a month on the theme of the Zodiac, a scene a month. The department that killed the programme was bookings, I could not get them to book the dancers for 6 months. They would only book them month by month and that meant that we were not absolutely certain who we would have. Kenneth Macmillan did a beautiful little ballet for Zodiac, but he wouldn’t use the dancers, he used only Lynn Seymour and Desmond Doyle from the Royal Ballet. He wasn’t prepared to trust. Peter Darrel did a very nice work and Norman Morris, Peter Gordeno, Gillian Lynne, Julian Chagrin, Douglas Squires, Dennis Palmer, Alan Baker, Gary Cockrell. There were 24 new works in the Zodiac series. Some of which were substantial, some memorable, some less so. The programme was not liked internally. Humphrey hated it.

NS: What was his job at the time?

MD: He was Head of the Dept at the time.

NS: Head of Music?

MD: Yes 1966

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MD: After 6 months, round about the 5th Zodiac, I was exhausted and I knew it couldn’t go on. So I went to Humph and said it has to stop. I can’t go on like this and I haven’t got the conditions. I can’t keep the dancers because booking won’t book them, the choreographers won’t choose them, so I would like to stop thank you. So we stopped. In a way that was my first failure. A creative failure!

NS: We have almost reached the age of colour BBC2

MD: Almost, Except for the Royal Ballet contract. Michael Wood who was public relations at Covent Garden came to me and said that the time was right for a contract between the Royal ballet and the BBC.  I thought well this has taken a long time, but it was what Sir George really wanted and I was flattered. So I was instrumental in organising a long term contract between the Royal Ballet and the BBC.

Between ’61 and ’64, we did 10 ballets from the repertoire that I selected with negotiation with Sir John Tooley, of the Royal Opera House. Still in the studio, still in black and white.

We began with The Rake’s Progress, The Rendezvous and Petrushka. Petrushka was quite an effort. It has a huge cast and orchestra and it was one of the ballets I did not know. I had never performed it and it went into the repertoire after I left. So that was a learning job, but I have to say that Mr. Stravinsky knew what he was doing. I would someday to say to all those composers who have given me my professional life.......It is pretty clear in the score what is to happen on the stage. It is determined by the music-the choreography is determined by the music. Fokine followed the score closely. What I discovered through looking at the score and the odd performance I was able to see (it was sometimes difficult to see a performance)........... I noticed by going to Covent Garden that the production was not on score, that it had got rather sloppy, a bar or two off the music. I realised I couldn’t use what the dancers did as my guide for camera script. The guide had to be the music. I had to get the ballet master to get the dancers on the music again. I had to ask for a lot of rehearsals, more than usual. It was difficult. I couldn’t say to Sir John that the production is in a very sloppy state. I had to be very tactful especially as my ex-husband was the ballet master. He understood my predicament and he was helpful.

It was an enormous job. There is a cast of over 100, the orchestra 75 or more. Many students were used as extras because the two main scenes are the crowd scenes. I’m quite proud of parts of Petrushka. The last scene especially. I think , by then, I had confidence to get the cameras moving in a crowd rather than from 4 corners. Fortunately the small scenes are quite small and you can do them separately. By that time we could record.

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NS: Was this live?

MD: No, we are onto videos. Amplex was the greatest, single, beneficial factor. We could pre-record the orchestra. The MU agreed to pre- record it, even though you couldn’t use this for rehearsal.

The camera rehearsals were to piano. In particular Patrick Harvey would play camera rehearsals with headphones, on which he was receiving the orchestra. But in any case with the Royal Ballet productions, the cast knew the tempo and they had their own conductor, conducting the orchestra at their pre- recording.

I prepared my script with the music in counts on the script because what I noticed about other producers in the Music Department when doing ballets- they didn’t use the monitors but had their heads in the score. They had the action written in the score. I thought that was no good at all. One had to keep one’s eyes on the monitor all the time. There had to be a way of having the score audible in the gallery. Dances are accustomed to learning even the most complex score by counting bars. I was familiar with that, so too were the cast. During rehearsal when the pianist was on the floor with headphones, he would also be counting. He and I would prepare the counts a long time ahead for rehearsal. In the gallery, he would during transmission, just count. The vision mixer took the cues from the counts and the action. One had to have the action absolutely spot on, on the music. If the dancers were off the music by even a crotchet, you were in trouble. It made me think very precisely- as it should be.

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I remember Humphrey coming into the gallery and being amazed at all the counting going on. He couldn’t understand it. That’s the only way I could work and get the work as it was meant to be. Yes I like the last act of Petrushka......... Yes that is recorded. I sometimes take the last act to conferences because it has the atmosphere it was meant to have, although it has been translated in screen terms. To support that I would say after Petrushka , I received a letter from Sir Kenneth Clark which said it was the first time he had seen Petrushka, which in any way resembled the original, which was praise indeed.

Unfortunately television is at the mercy of world news. Petrushka went out the night that the news told the world that Marilyn Munroe was dead. I don’t believe anyone saw Petrushka. They changed the schedules. I mean that is a hazard, isn’t it?

NS: That’s show business.

MD: No, it’s television business. Show business goes on. Television has to change its schedules when something happens.

Well in 1963, I was very pleased to get an award. It’s now called BAFTA, but in those days it was called SAFTA.

NS: The Guild of television Producers and Directors. This became the Society and Film and Television Arts.

MD: It was presented to me by Dame Sybil Thorndike at the annual dinner at the Dorchester Hotel, again at the mercy of events. It was the night Kennedy was shot.  I arrived at the Dorchester and there was a certain atmosphere but everybody was there. We sat and then suddenly everybody left because they had to get back to the office, to do whatever had to be done. It rather took the edge of the evening.

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MD:  Now around this time was colour.

NS: I wondered if Petrushka was in colour. BBC1 was not in colour until 1968.

MD: No, unfortunately, I never worked in the studio in colour. I worked in colour but only on film.

There was major change in the late ‘60s, and it was cause by colour, the arrival of a second channel and by rising costs. MacKinsey?* As far as I was affected David Attenborough, Head of Channel 2 came and said “Did I have anything against doing the ballets in colour from The Royal Opera House?” I said “ No, how can one, that is natural? “ They are stage works and best seen as stage works, if they are done well.  The only point of bringing to the studio when we were working in black and white, was you could do more with lighting and design, to make them more like as they are meant to be seen.

Now with colour I cannot see any real reason for bringing them to the studio. He believed wrongly that it would be less expensive to do them from the Opera House. At the same time I think the Opera House were probably pushing to have more promotion of the Opera House, which was understandable.

Bringing the ballets to the studio as I did, took up a fair bit of time in their schedule, which they couldn’t always find. I think they had also got to the stage that ballets could be presented very well and they would like more control. I have never had any difficulty with Sir John Tooley, but I think I began to see that it would be better for the Opera House. I couldn’t see anything against it, although I could see it was going to do me out of a whole vein of work, because I didn’t want to become an OB producer. I suppose that was an option. I could have said “Right I’ll go to OBs “. I didn’t like OBs. I’m not suited to all that business of working from a van in all weathers. I’ve done a few OBs. I don’t enjoy them. They are a great strain on the physique. It’s all sort of duffle coats and wellies. Isn’t it?

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So I realised that events were forcing me into a new avenue. The cost thing-Michael Peacock thought the ballet terribly expensive.

MS: He was controller of the BBC, wasn’t he?

MD: Wasn’t David controller of BBC 2?

Humphrey who was head of this department at this time, also thought the ballet was frightfully expensive, although when faced with my costings, he agreed. Nobody was getting anything. I mean the dancers were not well paid. The orchestra the basic minimum. I mean it was just that an awful lot of people were involved. They thought the design was very expensive. I didn’t. I used Clifford Hatz * a lot. He was wonderful at working out things to do inexpensively.

In Petrushka we had to find a way of translating the Benois decor into television terms. It was a very interesting exercise. It is just not a question of painting the backcloth, you know, and hanging it up in the studio. We were into 3 dimensions and perspective, in an effort to present the same appearance without it getting in the way of the choreography. The design problems I thought were fascinating. I enjoyed sorting them out. Very rarely did I have a designer from the Design Dept. who did not understand the need to reinterpret an existing design. There was only one. I had a designer for The Firebird, an obstinate young man who thought he could do better than Goncharova. It was not what it ought to be. Fortunately the production was strong and the dancing excellent so it sort of overrode it. On the whole the designers that came from the BBC Design Department unselfish because they sunk their own interests into the act of interpreting another and finding ways to reproduce theatrical devices. Most of them were marvellous and a joy to work with.

The cost thing.  Humphrey when faced with the accounts with the final budget, agreed that  there was no extravagance. I can give you the total costs of some of the productions which are laughable today. David was persuaded by perhaps the OB Department that there would be no design costs , lighting costs, no rehearsal costs. What he quite forgot was that he was going to have to pay every single member of the Opera House staff. All the unions, usherettes, programme sellers, cleaners, the FOH, Box office, Management, orchestra. I have had a look at some of the figures of the OBs from the Opera House and they greatly exceed the budgets I came in on. That was a mistake. The principle from doing theatrical work from the Opera House itself, I think I agree with. I won’t argue with. So that brought about a major change.

NS: What happened next then?

MD: Well I moved into what you might call documentary.

NS: Still the Music Department?

MD: Yes. The Department of course had several changes of name. In 1964, it was Music and Documentaries and the Head of the Department was Huw Wheldon. By 1967 it had become Music and Arts Department and the Head was Humphrey Burton. The major influence as far as I was concerned was Monitor. When Monitor began the Music Department was headed by Lionel Salter. Music Department sent me to see what was going on. Music Department was quite nervous about what was going on. I was sent as a spy to sit in on meetings and report back. I very soon discovered that what was going on was a damn sight more interesting to me than what was going on in Music Department. So, I suppose I defected in a kind of a way. I couldn’t move my own position but my mind and my interests moved right over. I did little things for Monitor.

NS:  Was Monitor within the Music Department?

MD: No Talks.

NS: Lionel Salter allowed you to do this.

MD: I was sent.

NS: You weren’t just a spy, you made little programmes.

MD: I don’t think I asked Lionel if I could. I think I took it for granted. Humphrey Burton and Huw Wheldon asked me if I could do something if I was free. I didn’t see it was necessary to ask. I went on doing programmes form Music Department. Things for Monitor were quick little things. I mean Monitor went out every Sunday. One didn’t spend weeks and weeks preparing them. They were short items.

NS: It was a magazine programme.

MD:  I think I began by finding them people. Huw said what’s this Kenneth Macmillan like? Can he do an interview? And I would arrange it and bring them together. “What’s in this American choreography mag?” I was asked if I could do a programme about Digger. I immediately thought I can go to Paris and do a documentary about the Royal Opera House, match up all the paintings to the work. A whole load of grandiose ideas went through my head. He said “That would be rather expensive. Do you think you could do it all on the paintings?” so I said “Yes I suppose so”.

They gave me Ann Turner who introduced me to Lillian Browse who had produced a very fine book with a vast number of illustrations of Degas ballet, drawings, pastels, paintings. We did what was basically the civilisation technique. I chose the pictures with Anne. I knew enough about Degas to know that when he drew a dancer or child in an incorrect position with bad back, but he was only drawing what he actually saw. So, in effect, the work of Degas is a record of the quality of the teaching at the Paris Opera in those days.

We put together these stills with music. Alan Tyre * must have edited it. I wrote a commentary and spoke it and it said something about the dancing life then and now. It was a very enjoyable experience and my first little documentary.

The next thing that happened in the documentary line, was Stuart Hood. He asked me one day if I could do something along the lines of ballet for beginners, because it had been the most popular TV programme in the BBC’s history. I groaned inwardly because I thought ballet for beginners had done everything that could be done and I was not interested in reproducing what Philip Bate had done. So I agonised for quite a long time. I didn’t want to say “No, I won’t.” Fortunately he wasn’t very specific. He just said could I do something along those lines. He put it to me very nicely.

NS: He was Controller of BBC1 (for the record).

MD: Yes, we are talking about 1964. It was a bad period of my personal life. I was lonely and unhappy and going to the movies a great deal. There had been a period when my office had been moved to the Langham. We were shunted around. My first office was in a caravan in the car park at Television Centre. We were constantly moved as television grew. The period I was in the Langham I was right at the top in a maid’s bedroom. When I finished work at the end of an office day-I would go to the Academy cinema, a meal at a restaurant in East Castle Street, sometimes to the Curzon. The early 60s was a wonderful period for film.

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MD: I happened to go to the Curzon to see a Japanese film called The Island. That struck a chord because there was no speech and it was about physical effort. An island which had no water and a woman having to climb to get a small quantity of water every few hours. It was relentless-but it was about effort and survival and it was incredibly beautiful. It had a very catching European sound track, not Japanese music. Michelle le Grande kind of music. It did capture one and I thought physical effort is another way of looking at what Stuart wants. It is different from ballet performance because you disguise the effort. However difficult it must look effortless. Effort only happens in the daily class workout. I thought that was an approach. I could do a class, that was idealised, that was beautiful, but the physical effort was real and unrehearsed.

I then worked out how to do this. If one had to rehearse, it wouldn’t be spontaneous and unreal. I worked it out with Peter Wright with whom I’d worked with quite a lot and a wonderful ballet master.

Between us we had a class use the maximum of effort so that the effort would be noticeable. I chose a lot of kinds of music, but the kind of music one could do the exercises to. I booked 3 casts. 2 sets of camera rehearsals with 2 different casts. People from the Royal Ballet were chosen for their physical beauty- 3 men and 3 girls. They did not know what they were in for. Peter would take the class. As it progressed, they got rather worried. I knew I could rely on their behaviour; none of them would object when the cameras were rolling. It was pushing them. They were all principles so the effort showed and I was extremely pleased with the result. We edited the raw material slightly and put commentary on it. I think it cost £1000.

NS: It was a video. What was it called?

MD: Ballet Class. Just that. It was quite well received, but everyone thought that was what happened at the ROH.

I’m very fond of Ballet Class. How slow it was. I was influenced by Japanese cinematography, where the camera work is very slow. I did try to have the austerity and beauty that Japanese cinematography has.

Music was all over the place. How High the Moon to Shostokovic and Bach. A class pianist knows the tempi you have to have for adagio and allegro. The commentary explained some of the French classical ballet terms. There was a mini biography of each dancer and why they were doing certain things.

NS: BBC 1? Black and white?

MD: If this were Desert Island Discs, I would say that this was my favourite programme. That came about as a result of Stuart Hood.

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NS: Shall we move onto the next great epic? What was that?

MD: Cranko’s Castle. Financial stringency drove us into co production. When I joined the BBC I directed programmes, the BBC paid for them. Ten years on we were, as producers, supposed to find the money for the funds. The whole concept of what a producer’s job was, changed. So we were pushed into co production and that sent us automatically abroad.

I had done a lot of work with John Cranko. I had produced a lot of his ballets and directed them. He was, at that time, director of the ballet in Stuttgart. I thought it would be interesting to show how an Opera House worked. I had shown how a company, dancers had worked. I hadn’t shown a major Opera House. Although I wasn’t attempting to show how the Opera worked. I was showing how a ballet company works within an Opera House. That meant setting up a co- production with ZDF in Stuttgart.

Humphrey was against it and thought it would be very expensive, which it was. Alan Brindell* who was, at the time, organiser of the Music and Arts Dept was quite helpful with regard to preliminary arrangements. I think I went over to Stuttgart and talked to the Interndent* who was interested. I can’t remember who brought Zwei deutsch fernsehn into it. A number of people came over from Stuttgart to the East Tower and we had a meeting. Humphrey was not able to attend. He was involved in Jonathan Miller’s Alice in Wonderland at that time or Ken Russell’s Isadora. He had intended to come to the meeting and kill the idea! It went through and got to a point where he couldn’t stop it.

All these high powered Germans had come over and agreed to all our prepositions, so there was no way out. Alan Brindell * had been present. It became necessary to involve Humphrey in it. So I asked him if he would come over and do the interviewing. He entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the thing.

I had never done anything with a film crew on location before. I knew the company well and how state theatres in Germany are run, but I hadn’t had to cope with things to do with moving crew.

Ken Westbury was the camera... We got on very well. The whole crew loved the theatre. The sound man fell in love with the ballet mistress. We had a very happy time. I was pleased with the result. I was sufficiently naive about film making to use 2 full mats* i had been told that 16mm was not up to 35mm. So I decided to do the important parts in 35mm and the more documentary parts in 16mm. It was a terrible mistake.

Additionally, the documentary led up to live performance in the theatre which was videoed by Zweideutschfernsehn, with Peter Wright directing the OB. The concept in those days was to do build up documentary on film leading to a genuine performance on tape. That was a good way of doing things. I liked that performance very much. It was a 50min programme, black and white on BBC1.

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MD: I learnt a lot. There were lots of new things to do like working in German (which I do not speak). Also the co-production meant that there had to be an English and German copy.

They were not at all happy about the title I had chosen. Cranko’s Castle. They wanted Eine Stuttgarter von South Africa.

Some of the editing problems were as a result of German and English because German takes longer to say than English. We did every interview in both English and German. I interviewed quite a lot of dancers with me off camera and Humphrey interviewed Cranko and spoke the English commentary in the end. We edited (Noel Shannon) the English version and then found the German version wouldn’t fit because it was longer. We solved the problems quite well until it came to the dub.

I had hired an actor who was born in Germany and spoke fluent German. I hired him to speak the German version in the commentary. He translated the English commentary into German. They laughed their heads off because they said that his German was so old fashioned. We don’t speak like this anymore. I was a bit mortified but realised something had to be done. So I said, “Would you like to make your own translation if we sent you the English commentary?” In the end they did, sent it back and we made the dub with the same actor who agreed.

There were two editing problems. Using the 16mm and 35mm and the question of language. I was quite pleased with the result, but it was not well received at the BBC. Donald Baverstock did not like it. I can’t go into that. It was never shown again. It was shown endlessly in Germany. It was shown in the US prior to the first visit of the Stuttgart Ballet to the US. The Ballet Company were very grateful to me because it made their first visit to the US a success. It isn’t even in the archive partly because of the different formats and it was junked by somebody. I don’t know who. I think that was a great shame.

NS: Have you recovered from that?

MD: Oh Yes.

NS: You are still with Humphrey Burton are you?

MD: Yes. Somewhere in there I did a film course. The opportunity arose and I thought I’d better take it.

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The other that happened was I realised I didn’t know enough about interviewing. I asked if I could go to Man Alive. I did a little Man Alive with Bill Morton and Desmond ..*. There was something about the way they let people talk and I thought it was good. I did learn enough to give me the confidence to attempt it.

The Anatomy Lesson was the next co production and it was colour. It was a ballet by Glen Tetley- an American choreographer done for the Netherlands Dance Theatre. Very interesting because the ballet is based on the Rembrandt painting which is based on an historical event. The dissection of the man did happen. I went to the room of Doctor Tulp, the man who brought tulips to Holland and he conducted the dissection. The room still exists- a Jewish memorial. It is a good ballet.

The problems inherent in co-production arose. I was accustomed to this notion that you prepare a documentary and lead up to a performance and that was agreed with NCRV. I filmed my documentary and the understanding was a Dutch TV producer Joos Ordefray * would direct the performance. There was an enmity between the director of NDT and the TV producer at NSRV. I ran into a situation where I ran into a situation where I had to deal with two men who hated each other. What happened was there was a lack of communication. The production was beautiful but so obviously in a studio and not a theatre. The technicians from NRSRV did their absolute best but it was clearly in a studio.

In Stuttgart we had the effect of the actual theatre performance we taped. There was a great visual disparity between the document which was 16mm and this excellent, pristine, total studio. I was very upset-there was a row. What happened was the bits got separated. The documentary went into the BBC Film Library. The Dutch used their bit on its own and sent it all over the world. I’ve had letters from South Africa. It was never seen again in Britain. I don’t think there was any dislike of the programme in the BBC. It was just not repeated.

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NS: Let’s move on to your next epic.

MDBallet By The Black Sea, an International Competition in Varna Bulgaria. That came about because of Hugh. The head of Bulgarian television Madam Miliva * had been over to Television Centre and had lunched with Huw Wheldon and others, probably Robin Scott as well. She told Huw about the competition, which at that time we had little knowledge of in this country. The ballet companies were highly suspicious of ballet competitions. Ballet has nothing to do with the Olympic Games. Choreography is not judged only technical performance. Huw asked whether I would like to look into it.

I was very reluctant but I went off to Bulgaria to Sofia and met Madam Miliva*. She was a poet and a very charming lady. I think I would have done it for her no matter what! I thought she was direct and charming.

I went to Varna where the competition takes place every year. It was a very pretty open air theatre. I began to think about it seriously. First thoughts were it is no good doing a film about if you do not know who the winners are going to be. I started to make enquiries as to who the entries were. From the Kirov ballet, Danish Royal Ballet and Cuba, the judges were contemporaries of mine, people I knew –Alisha Alonzo (Cuban Ballet), John Cranko, Stuttgart Ballet. The English entrants were a very poor standard, so I knew they were not going to get anywhere. I decided quite early on without seeing any of the dancers that the Russians would win and the Danes would come close. I had to think of a way to follow particular people through the heats. I knew who I was following. I had to build up a picture about Varna on the Black Sea. I had to think in advance how the dancers would get to the theatre and get away.

Also what one could expect to shoot inbetween. There was no time, it had to be done in advance. I knew all the dancers would be in one hotel. There was road they would have to go down to the theatre. The dance would take place every night and the winners of that night would go into the next round.

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We followed the winners. It was very enjoyable and the atmosphere was marvellous, to be with so many young people. There was no animosity, Mongolian, Cuban, American, Latin American etc.

NS: And you got the atmosphere?

MD: I hope so because it was quite remarkable. On the last day we heard that the Russians had walked into Czechoslavakia. It was 1968. Immediately everyone felt deflated. You had really felt that there was going to be cooperation between the youth. It had all just vanished. It was a sad day.

I interviewed a lot of young dancers. Colin Neers * did some of the interviews. He came as an assistant because it was quite an undertaking with lots of language problems. Colin speaks Russian. We had a very good crew.

NS: Was it successful with the British television audience?

MD: I have no idea. By that time we had John Culshaw Music Department.

NS: Humphrey Burton had now gone to Aquarius.

MD: I remember John Culshaw  dismissing it as a charming youthful thing.

NS: So we are now in Sept ’68?

MD: We are now into an era which for me was getting more difficult. Money was a big problem. John Culshaw was not interested in Ballet-not at all, Paul Fox Controller of BBC1 was not interested in ballet at all. Who was in 2?

NS: Robin Scott

MD: Robin was fairly interested but it was getting harder to find ideas which were acceptable and which didn’t cost any money. John Culshaw  made a rule which he didn’t apply to himself. Programmes should only cost £5000 as a limit. If you couldn’t find a co producer or didn’t want to find a co producer which often I didn’t, all you had to spend was £5000 which was the equivalent of the £900 I had at the beginning. He spent a lot of money on the programmes he directed which was rather irritating.

Disc 3 Track 1

Rambert Remembers. I can’t think of anything exceptional extra to say about that. They had no snags. We all went to her house and we talked to her, we shot what she and it all fitted together. The illustration was fairly simple because she had a film of her early company (fragments). I don’t remember a single difficulty which is rare. Of course it led to one of the last things I did before I left the BBC. A film about her company- The First 50 Years.

There were in between other biographical, oral history type programmes. I had the idea of doing a series of people who connected, who had influenced each other. The first one that would be in finished series, the earliest, was Massine and the influences different people were going to lead us all the way to Nureyev. I completed Nureyev and I completed Dame Ninette de Valois. Basically talk shows but illustrated. Well I had the material.

The one that was probably the most popular was Gene Kelly which I personally enjoyed making. It never got into being the kind of connected up series that I had intended because I was appointed the Professor of the Dance Department in York University, Toronto. I decided to take the offer.

NS: So you left TV

MD: I left TV and my last 2 programmes – Gene Kelly and ‘the first 50 years’ went out within a week of each other.

NS: This is sort of middle 70s now.

MD: Yes ’76. I left in ’76.

You will have noticed that the work I did is very autobiographically revealing. I was always doing something that I had experienced. In the studio I was always conveying the works I loved. The actual ballets and the whole process of being a dancer.

During my lifetime, dance as a universal human phenomenon has moved from being a not very respectable occupation to a really proper career. Dance people can have careers beyond dancing, because of the work done in Universities in North America and I regret to say not here until very recently. Right from the 20s in the US, Universities had dance departments. Some in PE department, some in Music, Drama departments. What that was doing was making a new career structure.

Disc 3 Track 2.

I thought it very important that something should be done so that dancers could be dance people all their lives. They are deprived academic education in their youth because if you want to be in a ballet company you start young. I had no formal education whatsoever. It seemed ludicrous that there were no avenues for very intelligent artists after a certain age. In the USA this is not so. The Universities’ dance deparments that are making the careers, because they are teaching subjects which have never been taught before-dance history and historical dance. At York, I have made a little list of the programmes I found going when I got there. We had 300 undergraduates and 20 graduates. A faculty of 11-15 and we were in the fine arts department, with a Music department, Film and Visual Arts dept. The first year students had to do a number of courses eg,  Maths, Languages- a continuation from their school. The foundation course which I called ‘Aspects of Dance’ where they got a notion of what dance was throughout all time and across the world. So they knew it wasn’t just classical ballet, but included what happened in Mexico and Mongolia. We had technical classes in ballet and contemporary dance right through 4 levels. There was a composition course quite a high level course in choreography. In England people would say that you can’t teach choreography. You are either a choreographer or not. There was never any sense in England there was a craft as well as known creativity.

NS: You said you had to leave the BBC to go there. Did you wish to leave BBC television or did they invite you from York University? Which was the strongest impulse?

MD: It was rather like the last few years in the ballet company. It was dawning upon me that I was getting too old. I couldn’t have left earlier because I was looking after my elderly mother. She died about a year before this. The offer came from the university. I knew the department. Every time I went to New York or Canada I would go and visit. I knew a lot of people in the faculty and they knew me and my performing reputation. I don’t think they ever saw any of my programmes, they were not shown in Canada. They were always shown in the States. I had visited and was impressed. One evening, late in the office at Kensington House, I was clearing my desk, going through old Dancing Times magazines etc., when I saw an advert. York University wanted a chairman of the Dance Department. So I sent them a telegram- if they hadn’t already filled the post I would be interested to know more about it. I got a telegram back to go over for a meeting. They looked me over and decided they wanted me and I was issued with a formal invitation. It seemed like a sensible move at the right time or possibly a bit late.

NS: How long were you there?

MD: A year.

Disc 3 track 3

MD: Well then. A lot of bits and pieces. Artists in residence at a college in Melbourne, Australia. An exhibition of dance at the Metro Museum. They ran a three week programme of dance which was connected with York University. They invited me back 2 or 3 times a year for lecturing at Waterloo University and New York University. A bit of writing.

NS: Not much in Britain.

MD: No one has offered me anything since I left. Well maybe my own fault. I don’t keep in touch particularly now.

NS: You live your life partly in Canada and partly in London?

MD: Yes. Quite a difficult balancing act to do. It’ll have to cease. I’m getting to the age when I can’t just flip across the Atlantic at a moment’s notice, with quite the same savoir faire as I used to. I am very pleased that it is now possible for there to be new careers because we are getting a generation of well-educated dance writers, much better critics and organisations like Canada Council. One of my dance students is a big bug in Canada Council. She dishes out all the money for companies in Canada. There are jobs for dancers now. We don’t have to rely on the Benevolent Fund.

NS: Is there much television about ballet and dance in Canada?

MD: No

NS: Not at all?

MD: Same reason. Cost. They do their annual Christmas Nutcracker. Norman Campbell does one big thing a year, though I don’t think he has done anything much recently.

NS: PBS stations in the US do something?

MD: I seldom see American TV now. In fact I see very little television. I haven’t seen much TV for the past 5 years. I don’t terribly like what I do see.

NS: You see it when you are in Britain surely?

MD: No I don’t have a TV set here.

Disc 3 track 4

NS: Because what I was going to ask you next was how you felt TV in this country is treating dance and ballet now.

MD: I am not qualified but I have seen very little. I think the message has got through that dance is dance and not just ballet. I have not seen anything which has really struck me. When I am in London I listen to the radio which I find remarkably good. I think BBC radio is superb. I suppose partly by saying I have heard about aspects of dance on the radio which is unheard of in my day. Mostly Radio 3 but also Kaleidoscope. I heard some little things accredited to Richard Bannerman who used to be in public relations when I was in television. Provided they can get dancers to talk well. I heard a programme about Daphne and Chloe, presented as music in a ballet, its proper context. I would like to say a lot more than that. The right people exist now. Jan Parry her programmes are accurate and well delivered.

NS: You also stayed with the BBC throughout your career. Did you ever think of going to ITV?

MD: No I never did. There wouldn’t be any serious stuff there except one odd show. The BBC was very good to me. I had a job until I chose to retire, unless I did something dreadful. I did retire early. I paid into the pension fund.

At the end of the first year at York University, I was absolutely exhausted. I’d been working since I was 14 and I was then 55. I had some summer holidays and grace leave, but I had been working continuously for more than 30 years. Although I liked my faculty and the University, I couldn’t get on with the Dean. I found the Dean a very difficult gentleman and I was accustomed to better things. I had worked with Dame Ninette de Valois. I had worked with Sir Huw Wheldon and this man was not of that calibre. I decided I didn’t want him in my life and decided I could move out. I could get a sabbatical because of my BBC pension. Take it easy for a year or so, which is what I did.

Disc 3 track 5

NS: You mentioned the film you made with and about Gene Kelly. He is associated naturally in the cinema. Can you tell us, as a cinema goer, something of dance and ballet as reflected in the cinema? Feature films I mean.

MD: Well we called what Kelly did, cinema dance. It is a category and he was tremendously influenced by the ballet. If you remember Invitation to the Dance was his way to popularise ballet in the movies. He was a link in my chain of people who had revolutionised dance. I think I called the working title of that Series of Omnibi. They were the revolutionists. They were people that had made change.

If you can think back to Kelly dancing with himself in Cover Girl. There was a number when he danced reflected in a mirror. At the time, technically it was really a new technique. It was called ‘the alter-ego dance’. It wasn’t an insert. It was part of the plot and carried it on. He did a variety of things like that. If you remember in ‘Invitation to the Dance’ there was a long sequence with animated characters. Now, that again, was a great technical innovation. Very successful. So it was the fact that he fitted into my chain. He had changed things in the cinema with regards to dance.

I would have liked to do a similar thing with Fred Astaire, but he wouldn’t. He refused. Kelly accepted.

NS: Anything else you would like to tell us about yourself, dance, television. I think we have covered all the ground.

MD: I think we have. It is an interesting career.

Other voice –audio technician?  What is the one you are most proud of?

MD: Well I think I always put a lot of myself into everything I did. The umbilical cord is very difficult to cut and takes a very long time. There have been a few programmes that I just did as programmes but very few. Almost every one I’ve felt very deeply and carefully about and enjoyed working on, but none of them were totally solo jobs. The thing I got from the BBC so much was working with colleagues of such a high calibre.

There were very valuable working relationships with people. When they were the people who brought your brain child to life, it was a kind of working relationship which didn’t exist in the University. There was no team spirit at all, but that may be Canadian. Earlier, of course, the whole ethos of the ballet company was a team. We were all part of something which we valued and thought important. Especially during the war we must have been like in the services. Everyone was very disciplined because if you wern’t it affected your work. If someone got sick someone else did the work. We were a company, unit, family and extended family. We had The Vic and the Opera Company and they were wonderful working relationships. The quality of the people that I worked with at the BBC was astounding, I thought. Editors, Tele cine were all new worlds to me. I had to learn and they taught me. Graphics, Design Department, all the Production Team.

NS: Thank you Maggie.

MD: Thank you.

Comments from transcriber:  * indicates that the spelling of this name is uncertain.

                                                ..... a series of dots occur when Margaret Dale doesn’t finish the



Margaret Dale was a British dancer who later became a producer and director  for BBC Television. 

Dale was born in Newcastle upon Tyne on December 30, 1922 and studied ballet at Sadler’s Wells School from 1937-9, before joining the Sadler’s Wells Ballet in 1939, making her debut as the Child in Ninette de Valois’ ballet The Emperor’s New Clothes. 

Dale danced a wide repertoire, including works by Marius Petipa, Michel Fokine, Leonide Massine, Frederick Ashton, Robert Helpmann and Roland Petit. In 1953, before the end of her career as a dancer, she choreographed The Great Detective for Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet. 

In 1954, Dale began working with the BBC, where she presented a wide range of dance companies while they were visiting London and from 1957, recorded established ballets in the studio. She made a number of important recordings of the Bolshoi. 

In 1961, Dale signed a contract to record nine ballets performed by the Royal Ballet over three years, enabling her to document one of the most exciting periods in that company’s history. In her first decade as a producer and director, she focused on presenting and creating ballets, aiming to express “as much of the feeling of the stage production as is possible on the small screen”. During her second decade she also made a series of documentaries on aspects of dance. 

Dale left the BBC in 1976 to teach and undertake research, spending considerable time in Canada, where in 1976, she was appointed Chair of York University’s Department of Dance.