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Dame Margaret Scott AC DBE

Dame Margaret Scott founded the Australian Ballet School in 1963.

Honour Roll

Dame Margaret Scott was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1922. From the age of three, Margaret (Maggie) wanted to be a dancer. Outstanding talent led her at sixteen to leave for London, to join Ninette de Valois, the Sadler's Wells School, and the Sadler's Wells Ballet.

In 1947, she travelled to Australia as soloist with Ballet Rambert. She became a foundation member of the National Theatre Ballet before returning to London in 1951. Maggie later chose to return to Australia with her husband, Professor Derek Denton, rather than take the post of Assistant Director of the Ballet Rambert.

She then opened a ballet school for children and for professional dancers to maintain their skills between seasons. This led to the formation of a group which identified the need for a permanent, full-time company and school in Australia. The group took this idea to Dr H.C. 'Nugget' Coombes, the then Chairman of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. He, through the combination of the Trust, J.C. Williamsons Ltd and the Federal Government, facilitated the establishment of first The Australian Ballet Company in 1962, followed by The Australian Ballet School in 1964 with Maggie as its Director. Nugget Coombes wrote 'the success reflects the drive and energy as well as the persuasion of Margaret Scott'.

She ran The Australian Ballet School for 27 years producing graduates who have been the stars of The Australian Ballet Company and many other companies throughout the world. She introduced Brenesh choreology or dance notation into the School which was used in an experimental programme to record and notate Aboriginal dances and corroborees. This work was eventually taken over by the Department of Anthropological Studies at Monash University.

Maggie also introduced the first health programme and orthopedic clinic in Australia specifically for dance injuries. Maggie's contribution to dance was recognised when she was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1981 and given a Doctorate of Law Honoris Causa by the University of Melbourne in 1989. She has also received an Ausdance Lifetime Achievement Award and a Green Room Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her expertise has been recognised internationally through work in China for the then Australian Ministry for External Affairs and through her memberships of the jury for the International Ballet Competitions held at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. In 1987, she was an Invited Guest at Premier Gorbachev's International Forum 'Survival of Humanity' Science and Arts Panel.

After retiring from The Australian Ballet School, Maggie was invited by Graeme Murphy, in 1992, to return to the stage to create the role of the elderly Clara in his production Nutcracker for The Australian Ballet Company. She was nominated for both Green Room and Mo Awards for this role.