Collecting StrandNational Resource Centre for Dance
Ref NoNM
TitleNatural Movement Archive
Extent28 linear metres, catalogued material; c8 boxes of uncatalogued material
Name of CreatorHeyworth; Anita Elizabeth M (1906-1991)
Atkinson; Madge (1885-1970)
DescriptionThe Natural Movement Archive comprises the archive of the dancer, choreographer and teacher Madge Atkinson, together with collected materials on Natural Movement, a system of dance developed by Atkinson which emphasised the harmonious use of the body and included accessories such as scarves and hoops. The archive was collected and developed by Atkinson's longtime colleague and collaborator Anita Heyworth.

Included within the archive are: papers relating to the Madge Atkinson School of Natural Movement in Manchester, founded 1918, which became the Atkinson-Suffield School in 1921; papers relating to the London College of Dance and Drama which Atkinson co-founded with Heyworth and Grace Cone in 1944; and papers relating to the Natural Movement Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD).

The archive consists of: over 1000 music scores, many of them annotated by Atkinson herself; dance notes in both written text and Atkinson's own system of notation; over 2000 photographs, including studio photographs of Atkinson and Heyworth taken by Thomas Longworth-Cooper, a prominent Manchester photographer in the 1920s and 1930s; theatre programmes and playbills (1848-1981); manuscripts giving insight into Atkinson's training methods; posters and leaflets; periodicals (including 'Dancing Times', 1911-1990); over 200 items of original costume from the 1920s and 1930s representing over 25 different dances. There is also evidence of Atkinson's early training with Annea Spong; scrapbooks created by Atkinson; costume design books; news cutting books of articles regarding Atkinson and Natural Movement and Heyworth and the London College of Dance and Drama covering the years 1911-1983.

The archive is enriched further through the annotation that has been added to programmes, books, music scores and photographs to supplement the information provided. Many of the costumes have name tags stitched in to them revealing by whom they were once worn.

There are also several personal photograph albums of trips abroad and old family photographs and several items belonging to Atkinson's father, actor J H Atkinson.

There is a small quantity of material, mostly accruals received after the cataloguing project, which remains to be processed and catalogued. If you require further information, please email
ArrangementMaterial arranged at time of cataloguing according to the format-based classification scheme which was then in use by the National Resource Centre for Dance
Administrative HistoryMadge Atkinson (1885-1970) was a dancer, choreographer and teacher. During the early 1900s, after working with Annea Spong, Madge Atkinson developed a system of dance which she called 'Natural Movement' and taught the technique in schools in Manchester and London. The Madge Atkinson School of Natural Movement was founded in Manchester in 1918 and it later became the Atkinson-Suffield School with Mollie Suffield as Atkinson's partner in 1921. This partnership ended and the School moved to London in 1936 where Atkinson opened her studio with Anita Heyworth, a friend and pupil. During the war the school was evacuated to Cornwall.
In 1925 Atkinson was asked to open the Natural Movement Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) and in the same year she formulated the elementary examinations for Natural Movement. From this time until the evacuation the technique was taught widely in schools.
Atkinson is said to have been influenced by two of her contemporaries, Isadora Duncan and Jaques Dalcroze, with whom she shared similar aesthetic principles. The Natural Movement technique emphasised a harmonious use of the body in which simple actions such as running and balancing created a lyrical style. Dancing barefoot enabled freedom and flow in the dance. The technique highlighted the natural lines of the body through these basic actions. Atkinson also favoured the use of accessories such as scarves and hoops to emphasise the lines and patterns made by the dancing body. Rhythm is an important element of the technique and improvisation to music was especially key to her work. She provided creative and artistic opportunities for the children that she taught to perform in dramatic dance concerts. Like her British contemporaries Margaret Morris and Ruby Ginner she is responsible for the development of a systematic and strong technical training to serve the art of dance.
Related MaterialOral history interviews relating to Natural Movement are held in the Pioneer Women Collection, archive ref PW/OH/1, held by Archives and Special Collections, University of Surrey.
Finding AidsThe archive includes a hardcopy card index of Madge Atkinson's dance compiled by Anita Heyworth, archive ref NM/E/2/10/5. An electronic copy is available on request/

A list of articles in 'Dancing Times' relating to Natural Movement is available on request,
Custodial HistoryThe archive was donated to the NRCD in 1989 by Anita Heyworth.
CodePerson NameDates
DS/UK/P3147Atkinson; Madge (1885-1970); dance practitioner1885-1970
DS/UK/P1348Heyworth; Anita Elizabeth M (1906-1991)1906-1991
DS/UK/P3538Atkinson; James H; Actor
DS/UK/11148London College of Dance and Drama; 1944-20031944-2003
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2024