Laurel Martyn remembered

Ausdance extends our sympathies to the family, former students and colleagues of Laurel Martyn OBE.

Laurel was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 1997 Australian Dance Awards, in recognition of her years of choreography, performance and teaching. Born in Toowoomba, Queensland in 1916 Laurel was the first Australian woman to be accepted into Vic-Wells Ballet (later Sadler’s Wells Ballet) in 1936, and was a featured soloist by 1938.

Laurel danced with Borovansky for five years, before establishing the Ballet Victoria Guild, (later the Victorian Ballet Company and then Ballet Victoria). Laurel was awared the Order of the British Empire in 1976. In 1985 her work Let them Dance – a preparation for dance and life was first published, with the aim of outlining a course of early years movement development.

Brolga – an Australian journal about dance has a dedicated edition looking at the work and life of Laurel, published to coincide with her 80th birthday in 1996. Janet Karin, former principal dancer with the Australian Ballet and dancer with the Ballet Guild writes:

Laurel broke so many rules of her time. She was an intellectual ballet dancer; she developed new collaborative process; she brought the philosophy of modern dance into ballet; she believed that concepts were more important than steps; she looked beyond the appearance of ballet to the person dancing.

There is also a wealth of information about the work of Laurel Martyn OBE on Trove collected by the National Library of Australia including an oral history recording captured by Mark Gordon as part of the Esso Performing Arts and Oral History Archive Project in 1989.

Laurel had the vision and wisdom to create a system of teaching dance which steered away from the unimaginative teaching of a rigid syllabus, and focused on principles and purpose of movement, and creative expression. Passionate about dance teaching and the education of dance teachers, Laurel has had significant influence on the Australian dance world.

Laurel Lawton

Laurel Martin Gill (performing as Martyn)
23–7–1916 : 16–10–2013
Loving wife of Lloyd (dec). Only daughter of E.A.and Olive Gill (both dec). Much loved aunt to the extended family.
Privately cremated.