About Laurel Martyn OBE

Australian dancer, choreographer, artistic director, dance educator and creator of the Laurel Martyn Dance System

At the age of four, Laurel began her dance training, the start of her lifelong dance career. From this time on, she always considered herself to be a dancer, and spent the rest of her long life involved in this fascinating art form.

“I have danced all my life. The best reason for learning to dance is that you enjoy the sensation of moving and expressing your feelings and ideas through movement.”

Laurel Martyn OBE
A black and white close-up photo of Laurel Martyn, looking up to her left. There is a heavy vignette around her face.

Laurel’s early training was in Toowoomba and Brisbane, she then travelled to London in 1933 where she completed her training, joined the Vic Wells company on tour and then became a member of the Sadlers Wells – now Royal Ballet. She danced as a full member of the company until 1938 when she returned to Australia.

Her greatest development during this period was through her study with members of the Russian Imperial Ballet who had escaped the Revolution and set up ballet schools throughout Europe. She found the Russian training; the intelligent and logical approach to technical development to be the guiding principal of her dancing life, namely that dance is total and involves the mind and the whole body. Therefore the two must be developed simultaneously as each part of the body is recognised, explored, and remembered as a part of the whole.

From 1940 Laurel was a principal dancer in the Borovansky Ballet in Australia, dancing major classical roles and original works choreographed by Borovansky. She also choreographed several works.

In 1946 the Victorian Ballet Guild engaged her to dance, choreograph, and to direct their ballet company and its associated school. For the next thirty years she collaborated with some of Australia’s leading composers and artists, contributing significantly to the development of the arts in Australia. The company later became Ballet Victoria, and hosted such eminent artists as Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, as well as Valery and Galina Panov.

Laurel Martyn Gill sits with a book, smiling at the camera

Teaching, as well as the development of expressive individuals who are able to realise their own unique abilities have always been important to Laurel. Her comprehensive experiences, combined with her inquisitive approach to movement and life in general, have led to the development of a unique philosophy on movement and dance teaching. Laurel firmly held the belief that this training contains valuable principles that apply to all styles of dance, to sports and to life itself.

Laurel Martyn holds a dancers hands in a grand pose

Her approach, while still firmly based on the great traditions of the art of dance, have been developed to be in tune with the Australian way of thinking and living. This holistic approach has developed over decades of professional experience, and the Laurel Martyn Dance System continues to be an organic structure which allows for individual development and adaptation in response to emerging knowledge and demands. It is codified in her teaching manuals Let Them Dance & Help Them Dance.

Click here to find out more about Laurel Martyn’s fascinating life.