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National Dance Archive of Ireland

Payne, Sara

Identity Statement

Reference Code: IE 2135 N43
Title: The Sara Payne Papers
Dates of Creation: 1931-1945
Level of Description: Fonds
Extent and Medium: 16 items (16 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. Payne returned to Dublin in 1936, and 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, Dublin.

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 the Irish-themed ballets that she choreographed, including Doomed Cuchulain, The Scarecrow and A Fiddler's Story. Perhaps more significantly, Payne's inclusion of trained traditional Irish dancers and musicians in performances took her vision a step further.

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

Content & Structure

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.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access: Please contact us in advance to make an appointment to see this collection.
Finding Aid: Descriptive List (click on link below)

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