News: Distinguished dance critic Mary Clarke has died aged 91

Thursday 2 April 2015 by Clare Evans

Mary Clarke in her office at Dancing Times in the late 1970s. Photograph: Dancing Times Photograph: Jack Blake/Dancing Times via The Guardian

A self-labelled ‘born audience’, Mary Clarke started documenting the world of dance in 1943, when she wrote an article in Dancing Times. She went on to edit that journal for 45 years, serve as the Guardian’s dance critic for 17 years, and publish multiple books on dance. She is remembered as one of the most influential writers on dance during the second half of the 20th century.

Stimulated by the different challenges of writing for a daily newspaper, she later said that one of the most memorable moments during her newspaper career was going straight to the Guardian’s offices from a performance at the Royal Opera House in 1992 following the death backstage of the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan and writing a tribute for the morning’s front page. She continued to contribute elegant obituaries to the paper into the new century.

It was more than 30 years ago that I wrote a brash and bolshie letter to the arts editor of the Guardian, complaining about the paper’s failure to cover what I regarded as the most interesting fringes of the British dance scene. And it was entirely typical of Mary’s humour and generosity that when the letter was passed on to her – as chief dance critic – she didn’t toss it into the bin. Instead she invited me to turn the argument into an article for Dancing Times – my first published piece and the start of my career.Judith Mackrell.

Mary Clarke was the most senior of a dynamic generation of dance writers who had grown up during the early days of British ballet in the 1930s and who played an active part in its artistic development and public popularity. She saw every step of British ballet from its nursery steps, through the golden period of Frederick Ashton’s supremacy at the nascent Royal Ballet, to the later turbulence when Kenneth MacMillan asserted more modern psychodramatic values in ballet. – Obituary, The Telegraph

Mary Clarke, dance writer, critic and editor, born 23 August 1923; died 20 March 2015

Read more: The Guardian, 30 March 2015 & The Telegraph, 30 March 2015

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