British Modern Dance

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Norman Morrice

Norman Morrice trained at the Rambert School and in 1953 joined the company as a dance. He had always wanted to choreograph and in 1958 Rambert gave him his chance. He made Two Brothers, a modern dance-drama about jealousy between two brothers which results in one killing the other. The brothers were danced by Morrice and John Chesworth, both of whom later became artistic directors for the company. Morrice was always interested in making ballets on modern themes with members of the audiences. He was appointed associate choreographer and continued to produce one new ballet every year, which was all the time for creative work that could be spared. The continuation of his story takes us into Ballet Rambert’s Modern Period.

In the early1960’s, Norman Morrice visited the USA to study the developments in modern dance there. He greatly admired the achievements of Martha Graham in forging her own dance technique and in pioneering a new style of dance production and he was also impressed by the work of other American choreographers such as Glen Tetley, Merce Cunningham and Anna Sokolow. Morrice returned to Britain convinced that this was the direction in which Ballet Rambert should be moving. In 1966 Morrice came to Marie Rambert and outlined his own plan for the future. In essence this was as follows: to dismiss the corps de ballet and streamline the company to less than twenty dancers, all of soloist standard; to reduce the size of the orchestra; to introduce contemporary dance training; basically that of Martha Graham, for the remaining dancers; and to create a new repertory of contemporary work from new choreographers combined with the best of the work from the company’s past. In this way Ballet Rambert would become an exciting and innovative dance company once again. Morrice was also inspired by the example of the Dutch company, Nederlands Dans Theater, which had recently successfully undergone a similar change in artistic policy.

Marie Rambert;...