CodeDS/UK/P614
Dates1925-2017
Person NameStephenson; Geraldine (1925-2017); Dancer, choreographer and movement director
SurnameStephenson
ForenamesGeraldine
EpithetDancer, choreographer and movement director
ActivityDancer, choreographer, teacher, movement director.
HistoryStephenson was born Geraldine Mavis Stephenson on 4 December 1925 at West Sculcoates, Kingston Upon Hull, to Gordon Stephenson and Eleanor Stephenson (née Quibell) [GS/1/1/1].
Stephenson grew up in Hull attended Newland High School for girls, where she became Head Girl and attended local dance competitions.

While studying for a degree in Physiotherapy at Bedford Physical Training College, Geraldine Stephenson was introduced to movement theorist Rudolf Laban, Lisa Ullmann and Joan Goodrich through an introductory course in "new movement". After attending a Modern Dance Holiday Course in Sheffield, January 1946 [Preston-Dunlop, p238; GS/8/1/11] Stephenson was accepted as one of the first students at the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester when it opened in 1946, and became member number 93 of the Laban Art of Movement Guild in 1947 [GS/2/3/1]. She paid for her fees at the Studio by giving lessons in Anatomy and Physiology and Music Appreciation, leading morning warm-up sessions, and acting as an accompanist on the piano [Preston-Dunlop, p248].

In April of 1948, while Laban was ill with typhoid, Stephenson was sent as an apprentice of Laban's to take over the teaching of his movement classess at Esmé Church's Northern Theatre School in Bradford [Preston-Dunlop, p246], doing well and later becoming Laban's assistant for the next five years. At Bradford Geraldine taught many actors including Bernard Hepton, Edward Petherbridge, as well as the educationalist Dorothy Heathcote and the director David Giles, some of whom she would have working relationships with throughout her career. Stephenson was particularly interested in Movement for Actors, and taught at drama courses in York, Newcastle and Wolverhampton [GS/2/1/36-39], assisting Laban with his work with the British Drama League. Stephenson saw dance drama as a means of communication [GS/8/3/3].

In 1951 Stephenson went to Alexandra Palace to audition for the BBC. From this, she was introduced to Christian Simpson who recruited her to choreograph and perform a ten minute dance sequence for television 'experimental television' and 'a solid paving stone in teleballet' [GS/8/3/2 item (3)].

By 1953 Stephenson had established herself as a solo performer as well as a producer of dance drama. Her own series of self-choreographed solo dance and mime recitals, encouraged as a project by Laban, were individual character pieces and the dances were given titles relating to the characters [GS/2/2]. In October 1955 Stephenson performed her recital in London, Park Lane Theatre, for the first time [GS/5/1/2, GS/5/4/4]. In 1953 as the Art of Movement Studio relocated to Addlestone, Surrey, Stephenson remained as a teacher, but juggled this with not only her own choreography but individual projects in London and around the country as her professional career as a choreographer and movement director for theatre, television and film was starting to take off. Stephenson also composed group dance music for the Laban Movement Study Aids organisation [GS/4/1/6].

Her early career as a choreographer included directing movement for the stage and for pageants, such as Bradford Civic Theatre plays for young people, early 1950s [GS/5/4/1-2]; York Cycle of Mystery Plays at St. Mary's Abbey, 1951 and revivals in 1954, 1957 [GS/5/4/3]; the Elizabethan Masque for the 1956 Gesta Grayorum at Grays Inn, presented to Queen Elizabeth II [GS/5/6/2, GS/8/1/3]; and a commemorative pageant for Rochester Cathedral and Diocese "Builders of the Kingdom", 1958, Royal Festival Hall [GS/5/4/5]. Geraldine herself also performed in some of these early projects: for example she danced in the Elizabethan Masque for the 1956 Gesta Grayorum [GS/5/2/9] and composed music for the City of Manchester Coronation Celebrations [GS/8/2/1] as well as for her own dance recitals such as "The Centuries in Dance" collaboration with Norman Ayrton and John Dalby, which included dances from the middle ages to the nineteenth century.

As Stephenson's career progressed into television and film, she still crowd-choreographed for pageants, plays and large-scale dance projects, which developed on Rudolf Laban's practice of "movement choirs". In July 1960 Stephenson choreographed 1000 girl guides to perform in "A Masque for Youth" for the Girl Guiding Association Jubilee Festival at Wembley Arena [GS/4/5/1, GS/5/2/12-13]. She choreographed significant pageants for the Llandaff Festival: "The Masque of Saint Francis" and "The Masque of Saint Teilo" 1961 and 1963 respectively, at Llandaff Cathderal [GS/4/1/4, GS/4/7/1, GS/5/2/14].

Geraldine Stephenson became an expert in period dance and movement, which she also sustained through her own research and experience choreographing many period dramas and adaptations for television networks. Her prominence as a choreographer for television and film between the 1960s and early 2000s can be illustrated by the following credits, including, but not limited to, the following British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television series': 'Kenilworth', 1957, 'Nicholas Nickleby', 1968; 'The Six Wives of Henry VIII', 1970; 'Casanova', 1971; 'War & Peace', 1972; 'Poldark', 1975; 'I, Claudius', 1976; two adaptations of 'Anna Karenina' for the BBC, 1977 and Channel 4, 2000; 'Fanny by Gaslight', 1981; 'Mansfield Park', 1983; 'Vanity Fair', 1987 and 'The House of Eliott', 1991-1994. Stephenson also choreographed movement for period episodes and series for Associated Television (ATV) including 'Clayhanger', 1976 and 'Disraeli', 1978. Stephenson's work as a movement director for film includes Stanley Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon', 1975 and Roger Michell's 'Notting Hill', 1999. Further popular BBC productions choreographed by Stephenson were 'The Last of the Mohicans', 1971; 'Doctor Who', 1976 and 'Eastenders', date unknown [GS/6/1].

Stephenson's career as a movement director and choreographer spanned international stages - in April 1959 she performed her recital of dance, music and mime at the Musée Guimet, Paris, accompanied by John Dalby on the piano. In the summer of 1968 she worked in Portugal at the Gulbenkian Festival, directing the masque for Purcell's 'The Fairy Queen'. Stephenson also toured Switzerland for two weeks giving lectures on "Drama, Dance and Dynamism'. This was an opportunity for Stephenson to visit her elder brother, Dennis Stephenson MBE, who lived and worked in Switzerland, before he died in 1983 [GS/1/1/1].

Alongside film and television choreography, Stephenson maintained a long and fruitful working relationship with the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre from its re-opening in 1962 until 1998 and choreographed actors for many seasons [GS/5/4/10]. She also served 28 years as the choreographer for the Royal Strauss Galas between 1976 and 2004, as well as choreographing other Strauss touring shows and summer events [GS/4/1-2; GS/4/4-5; GS/5/1-3]. In addition to these long-term working relationships in theatre, Stephenson arranged dances for a multitude of theatre productions between the 1950s and early 2000s. [GS/5/4/1-52].

Stephenson remained active within the Laban Art of Movement Guild and wider community of choreography and continued her membership of Motus Humanus, teaching for seminars with Warren Lamb [GS/4/6/22]. Her final working role as choreographer was for the 2003/2004 Royal Strauss Gala - this marked an end to a long working relationship with the Strauss dancers, Strauss orchestra and Raymond Gubbay Ltd., and she handed over the choreography to her previous movement assistant Mandy Demetriou. Stephenson was also chair of the Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship Fund from its foundation in 1987 until her death [https://lutsf.org.uk; GS/7/3]. She was a member of the Advisory Committee to Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, Brunel University between 1996 and 2002. Also in her later years Stephenson kept up teaching movement for actors using her original Laban notations, namely to Dick McCaw between 2001 and 2005 [GS/2/1/32, GS/4/6/19-20]. In 2003 she received an honorary Doctorate of Arts from De Montfort University, Leicester [GS/1/2/23; McCaw, D. (2018)].

Geraldine Stephenson died aged 92 on 24 December 2017, London [McCaw, D. (2018)].
SourceGeraldine Stephenson archive, archive reference GS, Archives and Special Collections, University of Surrey
McCaw, D. (8 Feb 2018) "Geraldine Stephenson Obituary" available online at https://www.theguardian.com/stage/tvandradioblog/2018/feb/08/geraldine-stephenson-obituary
McCaw, D. (c2008) Geraldine Stephenson: A Life in Movement - writings, interviews and documents. Hard copy available at GS/8/3/14, Geraldine Stephenson archive, Archives and Special Collections, University of Surrey
Preston-Dunlop, V. (1998) Rudolf Laban - An Extraordinary life. Dance Books Ltd., Cecil Court London.
The Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship Fund available online at https://lutsf.org.uk/
Catalogue
RefNoTitleDate
L/E/42/45Production Scripts \ Nightingale, Then.d.
XZK/C2049/3425Laban Art of Movement Guild News SheetOctober 1953
AW/E/5/8Laban Studio 1953/1954 Educational Presentation1953-1954
AW/E/5/14Private Sessions Laban, W.Lamb, G Stephenson1954-1960
XZK/C2049/3431Laban Art of Movement Guild MagazineMarch 1957
LG/F/1/5Guild Council meeting 19541954
L/E/41/50Articles about Laban \ New Era, The \ Special Issue on Rudolf Laban1959
XZK/C2049/2257Laban Art of Movement Guild MagazineNovember 1963
XZK/C2049/2250Laban Art of Movement Guild MagazineMarch 1960
XZK/C2049/3421Laban Art of Movement Guild News SheetSeptember 1951
ET/A/625Listen and Move \ XIII and XIVn.d.
ET/A/628Listen and Move \ V and VI \ Pianon.d.
LG/F/1/2Guild Council meeting 19541954
LG/F/1/4Guild Council meeting 19541954
LG/F/1/6Guild Council meeting 19541954
LG/F/1/7Guild Council meeting 19541954
AW/E/5/2Laban Lectures \ G. Stephenson Conflict etc, Students Themes, Observation Marion North, Records & Sheet Music1954
LU/E/12/10Lectures \ Elizabethans, The1959-1960
ET/A/627Listen and Move \ IX and X \ Percussion and Musicn.d.
GSGeraldine Stephenson archiveLate 19th century-2008
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