Margaret Dale, 87, director, producer of dance for BBC

By Alastair Macaulay
New York Times / February 11, 2010

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NEW YORK - Margaret Dale, an illustrious dancer who went on to become an important producer and director of dance for British television, died in London on Jan. 28. She was 87.

Her death was announced by her sister, Elsa.

In the 1940s and 1950s, dancing with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet), Ms. Dale showed a flair for comedy and a sparkling technique.

As a director and producer for BBC-TV between 1954 and 1976, she set standards that have rarely been equaled, commissioning work from talented young choreographers, assembling casts that never appeared together onstage, and capturing classic stage productions in lucid, unfussy recordings.

Ms. Dale’s greatest achievement came when she filmed Ashton’s two-act ballet “La Fille Mal Gardee,’’ with its original cast for television, uncut, shortly after it had triumphed in both New York and Russia. Her black-and-white film documents the rare virtues of the work’s first cast and of many choreographic details that were changed in subsequent performances. It also remains exemplary as ballet on camera. The takes are long and unobtrusive; only one sequence, at the end of the first scene, has been rearranged for filming.