To mark 100 years of Rambert School, we are taking the opportunity to look back over 100 stories of the School’s history that have made us who we are today.
They will cover many of the people, places, dates, or things that encompass and exhibit the values, ethos, and heart of Rambert School. From Marie Rambert herself, to the Principals that have led us in the years since, to our extremely talented alumni and the buildings we have called home, this will be a year-long journey through the history and present days of the School.
Each week will see new stories unveiled, so make sure to check back regularly to see new updates as well as find announcements on our social media posts.
Our RS100 Stories will build a broad picture of those who have impacted the School’s history and present, and we really want to include as many stories that alumni have as possible. If you have a great tale of your days at the School, whether serious or lighthearted, please get in touch with us as we would love to include it in the archive of this special year.
To see more of our RS100 activity and events, check out our page here.
Dancer, educator and contemporary ballet’s pioneer, Marie Rambert is the inimitable founder of Rambert School and the Rambert Dance Company – Great Britain’s oldest vocational dance school and continually running dance company alike.
Marie Rambert was born on 20 February 1888 in Warsaw in a wealthy Jewish family. Her father was a bookseller and a publisher while her mother took care of the house. At a young age she was supposed to study medicine, but when she saw Isadora Duncan on-scene for the first time in 1904, she set her heart on becoming a professional dancer.
She studied in Paris where learned rhythm and movement in Sergei Diaghilev’s famous Ballets Russes and assisted for the legendary The Rite of Spring. In 1913 the spectacle caused a scandal in Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and went down in international dance and music history.
Her contribution to ballet’s development on the British Isles is invaluable. She came to London in 1914, just after the outbreak of World War I. At the beginning, she gave private dance and rhythm lessons to the children of the British elite – including Winston Churchill’s daughter. Three years later, she established her own dance school in which she combined ballet technique with modern style.
She had a great gift for discovering talent and developed many of the greatest British ballet personalities. Frederick Ashton – Marie’s student, prominent choreographer and one of the international ballet’s most important figures – debuted with a short form titled A Tragedy of Fashion in 1926. This date is considered as the beginning of British ballet and of the Rambert Dance Company.
The School proudly continues to live by her ethic and example of technical excellence, pioneering imagination, and daring individuality.
‘I remember seeing her at the School, a little tiny grey-haired lady […] she seemed like a little mouse. Little did I know that once one got into the studio with her, she was a tigress.’
Rambert School’s current picturesque home, just seconds away from the Thames in leafy Twickenham, has had many past lives.
Clifton Lodge was originally built as an orangery forming part of the extensive picturesque grounds of the riverside estate Twickenham Park, which later became known as St Margarets House. The lodge, which was formerly called The Orangery, appears on an estate map as early as 1817 .
St Margarets House was demolished and rebuilt by the Earl of Kilmorey (Jack Francis Needham) between 1851 and 1852. The Earl also owned Gordon House and situated his Egyptian mausoleum at the bottom of the garden which can still be seen today within a walled garden opposite the Ailsa Tavern, St Margarets Road. The Earl sold the buildings in 1854 to the Conservative Land Society which enabled the Royal Naval College (previously based at Hope House Richmond Green) to take occupancy in 1856. The college was one of the very first public schools and it remained at St Margarets House until 1942 when the house was damaged by a WW2 bomb. Clifton Lodge was used as a private residence from the 1870s when a second storey was added to the original building. It’s likely that the lodge was named after Miss Clifton who was the Lady Governess of the Royal Naval College – the name Clifton Lodge was used from 1957 when the building functioned as a nursing home.
Rambert School was keen to remain in Twickenham following its move to West London in 1979 and, following enormous support from the local community for the villa to be kept and preserved, Clifton Lodge was designated a Grade II listed building. It was agreed that the School would occupy two of the historic buildings contained within the land for sale and between 2005 and 2007 with the support of a number of generous donors and foundations Clifton Lodge and The Violet Needham Chapel were converted complete with five dance studios for the newly constituted Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.