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RepositoryNational Resource Centre for Dance Archive
Ref NoNM
TitleNatural Movement Archive
DescriptionDating from approximately 1860 to 1994 the content and extent of this archive reflects the commitment Madge Atkinson (1885-1970) and Anita Heyworth (1906-1991) had to the preservation and development of the Natural Movement technique throughout their lives.
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 beautiful studio shots of Atkinson and Heyworth taken by Thomas Longworth-Cooper, a prominent Manchester photographer in the 1920s and 1930s; theatre programmes and playbills (1848-1981) (the oldest relating to ballerina Marie Taglioni, 1848); 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 at least 25 different dances. There is also evidence of Atkinson's early training with Annea Spong; scrapbooks created by Atkinson including a costume design book; 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 revealin g by whom they were once worn. Great attention to detail was applied to the materials as they were generated and collected, and this meticulous approach is invaluable for researchers interested in this collection.
There are also several personal photograph albums of trips abroad and old family photographs and several items belonging to Atkinson's actor father J H Atkinson.
There is also paper and electronic versions of Anita Heyworth's card index of dances and of an index to relevant articles in the Dancing Times. These can be accessed at the National Resource Centre for Dance.
Admin_HistoryDuring 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 for 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.
Custodial_HistoryThe archive was donated to the NRCD in 1989 by Anita Heyworth.
Extent28 linear metres
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; 1944-1944-
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