Who was Belinda Quirey MBE (1912-1996)?

When Peter Brinson wrote Dance as Education: Towards a National Dance Culture in the early 90’s, he included Belinda Quirey as one of the founding figures in the history of early, or historical, dance.

Belinda Quirey receiving her MBE, with Dame Beryl Gray

Belinda Quirey receiving her MBE, with Dame Beryl Gray

A student of Melusine Wood and a contemporary of Mabel Dolmetsch, she was a charismatic leader of a new approach to the history of dance, pioneering mid-20th century scholarship based on deciphering original notation for the reconstruction of dances. Belinda and Melusine were past chairs of The Historical branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD).
Belinda Quirey became an Honorary Member of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and a Founder Fellow (and past Chairman) of the Dance Research Committee of the ISTD. She taught dance history at the Royal Academy of Dancing, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, the London College of Dance and Drama, the London Contemporary Dance School, the London Theatre School, and the British and European Studies Group.

Belinda choreographed for major theatrical companies, and was for many years the choreographer of the English Bach Festival Trust in its revivals of Baroque operas. Her BBC television series ‘May I Have The Pleasure?’ was the forerunner of those more recent programmes which have proved so popular with the public. Leading conductors and members of the professional dance world relied on her wide knowledge of period music, literature and social history. Her work was recognised with an MBE for services to historical dance.

Jonathan Still’s very personal online tribute to Belinda Quirey gives a flavour of her influence on the development of early dance: what made Belinda such a fantastic teacher…. It wasn’t just that her knowledge of the subject put everyone else’s to shame; she made it live and breathe. Her classes were so lively, risqué, humane and intelligent, her personality so warm and entertaining, that you left feeling as if baroque dance were the hippest, coolest thing on the planet. She made ballet, by comparison, seem old-fashioned, rigid, fossilized and rather ridiculous (which – in terms of training – it was), because it appeared to lack the earthy sensuality and humanity of the dance that she taught.  Visit jonathanstill.com/2005/12/18/belindaquirey-1912-1996/

For further tributes see:

  • Belinda Quirey and Historical Dance: Proceedings of a conference in celebration of the life and work of Belinda Quirey, 1912-1996, held at Birkbeck College, London, 5 April 1997. 48 pp. (Early Dance Circle, 1997) ISBN: 0951364030.
  • Belinda Quirey MBE: A Tribute from Her Friends, Clement Crisp, Mo Dodson, Winnie Fuller, Nicola Gaines, Beryl Grey, Ivor Guest, Wendy Hilton, Michael Holmes, Lina Lalandi, Robert North, Phrosso Pfister and Terry Worroll in Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research Vol. 16, No. 2 (Winter, 1998), pp. 44-66.
  • Diana Scrivener, “Belinda Quirey”, Historical Dance Vol. 3 No. 5 (DHDS, 1998)