Reference Code: IE 2135 N43

Title: The Sara Payne Papers

Dates of Creation: 1921-1945

Level of Description: Fonds

Extent and Medium: 16 items (13 files)




Name of Creator: Payne, Sara (1907-1993).

Biographical History: Sara Payne was born in England in 1907 into a theatrical family.  She was the daughter of the theatre director Ben Iden Payne and actress Mona Limerick.  Payne was amongst the first cohort of students at Ninette de Valois’ school, the Academy of Choreographic Art, London.  From 1928 until 1931 she was Principal at the Abbey Theatre School of Ballet.  In 1936, Payne returned to Dublin, where she established the Sara Payne School of Dance and Mime and a dance company.  In parallel, she worked as a choreographer and dancer at the Gate Theatre.

Payne’s vision for the development of ballet in Ireland focused on fusing ballet with traditional Irish dance steps and patterns.  This is exemplified by her Irish-themed ballets, including Doomed Cuchulain, The Scarecrow, and A Fiddler’s Story.  Payne’s inclusion of trained traditional Irish dancers and musicians in performances took her vision a step further.

In c. 1946, Payne return to England, and by 1955 she was working again with de Valois at the White Lodge, Royal Ballet School, London, where she remained until her retirement in 1972.  Sara Payne died in 1993 and is survived by a daughter and son.

Archival History: Collected by Sara Payne during her lifetime and passed to her son, Julian Kelly, after her death.

Immediate Source of Acquisition: Donated by Sara Payne’s son, Julian Kelly to the National Dance Archive of Ireland on 13 December 2011, except for N43/1/13, which was donated by Sara Payne’s daughter, Orlaith Kelly, on 7 March 2012.




Scope and Content: Mainly programmes and press cuttings illustrating Sara Payne’s career as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer; the activities of the Payne School of Dance and Mime; and the early development of ballet as an art form in Ireland.

Appraisal, Destruction and Scheduling Information: All records have been retained.

Accruals: Accruals are not expected.

System of Arrangement: The documents have been divided into three series according to their form and thereunder arranged chronologically by date.




Conditions Governing Access: Unrestricted access to all items.

Conditions Governing Reproduction: Standard copyright regulations apply to all items.  For photocopying or reproducing material, please consult with the staff.

Language/ Scripts of Material: English.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements: Paper documents in good or reasonable condition.

Finding Aids: A hard copy of the descriptive catalogue is available at the Special Collections and Archives Department, Glucksman Library, University of Limerick.




Related Units of Description: For additional programmes of performances by Sara Payne Ballet, see the Catherine Gyll Papers (N26) in the National Dance Archive of Ireland.




Archivist’s Note: Papers arranged and described by Anna-Maria Hajba.

Rules or Conventions: This description follows guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd edition, 2000; Irish Guidelines for Archival Description, 2009; National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997; and EAP Guidance on Data Protection for Archive Services, 2018.

Date of Description: January 2012.  Revised August 2020.


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