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Barr, Margaret (1904–1991)

Margaret Barr, who made a unique contribution to dance in Australia as a choreographer, director and teacher, died in Sydney on Wednesday, aged 86.

From 1953 until September last year she gave annual seasons of original dance drama works in a style that retained the broad gestures, keen social comment and dramatic configuration of modern dance in its formative years.

At her studio and in the National Institute of Dramatic Art, where she taught movement for 16 years, she had an unusual breadth of influence on her students.

Sharing her ideas and philosophies was integral to imparting her skills of non-verbal expression. While most of her students did not make dance their career - Kai Tai Chan, founding artistic director of One Extra Company, is the most notable exception - an astonishing cross-section of people acknowledge the impact she made on their lives.

Margaret Barr was born in Bombay in 1904. In 1923, she went to New York to study with Martha Graham, who took her on as a teacher soon afterwards. In 1930, she was appointed to Dartington College, the centre of modern dance creativity in Britain. At the outbreak of World War II, she went to New Zealand.

Moving to Australia in the early 1950s, she brought an international view of social concerns, as well as technical expertise and a lively imagination to her dance presentations. For nearly four decades, these ranged over topics as diverse as the work of Mahatma Gandhi and Margaret Mead, drought and the Melbourne Cup. Margaret Barr's funeral will take place on Tuesday at 1.30pm in the North Chapel, Northern Suburbs Crematorium.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 June 1991, p 11

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'Barr, Margaret (1904–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 4 July 2020.

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