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Marie Rambert (1888–1982)

Author of Quicksilver : An Autobiography

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Marie Rambert was born Cyvia Ramberg in Warsaw to a middle-class Polish Jewish family. She was known as Cesia among her three sisters and two brothers. She had a curious mind and restless energy, for which a nurse nicknamed her "Quicksilver"; she would later use this as the title of her autobiography. She had her first dance lessons as a child. In 1905, her parents sent her to Paris, hoping she would study medicine; instead she became a avant-garde "barefoot dancer" and performed in works by Raymond Duncan, Isadora's brother. She started creating and performing her own dances, and also studied ballet under Madame Rat at the Paris Opera. In 1907, she met Émile Jacques-Dalcroze, the inventor of eurhythmics. After spending three years with him as a student and then as a teacher, she was invited by Sergei Diaghilev to join the Ballets Russes in 1912 and train the dancers in eurhythmics. She assisted Vaslav Nijinsky in using the technique to create his experimental 1913 ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, with its complex score by Igor Stravinsky. She learned from watching and working with Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina and the many famous dancers in the company. She observed Diaghilev’s gift for bringing together the best artists in dance, music, and design to create innovative new ballets as well as refresh the classics. She also made lifelong friendships and artistic contacts that served her well later on. With the outbreak of World War I, she went to London and adapted her name to Marie Rambert. She supported herself by performing as a dancer and actress. In 1918, she married Ashley Dukes, a playwright and critic, with whom she had two daughters. After completing teacher training with the great Enrico Cecchetti, she opened her own school in 1920 and in 1926 the first ballet company in England. It was originally known as Marie Rambert Dancers, then successively as the Ballet Club, Ballet Rambert, and Rambert Dance Company. Marie Rambert's greatest strength and pleasure lay in discovering and cultivating talent. She helped launch the careers of Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, Agnes de Mille, Andrée Howard, and many others. She retired from active leadership of the company in 1966, but remained its guiding spirit, and is remembered today as the pioneering "founding mother" of British ballet. Dame Marie Rambert received many honors in her long career, including the Legion d’Honneur in 1957 and the DBE in 1962.
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