Obituaries:Chris de Marigny

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The Independent Online
A senior member of the Australian Dance Council recently researched all British dance magazines and subscribed as a result to Dance Theatre Journal. "It deals so well with all the wider issues," she said on the telephone. "Who is this Chris de Marigny?" Chris de Marigny, the editor, was as much a phenomenon as his journal. Snapped up by the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance when he applied for an administrative job in 1981, he had packed wide artistic experience into a short life. Quintessentially European, he spoke fluent French and Danish with reading ability in German and Norwegian. He had trained with the Royal Ballet and Ballet Rambert and worked in New York with some of the leading pioneers of New Dance.

Educated at the Lycee Francais in London, he held a diploma in Art and Design from Chelsea College, had taught in London art schools, been administrator for publishers in Copenhagen and was in 1981 administrator for the Midland Group Arts Centre, Nottingham. He was what the Laban Centre needed as it prepared to move into the international dance education field.

The centre soon discovered it had acquired much more than a good adminstrator. Led by Marion North, a passionate advocate for dance, the centre found in de Marigny someone with equal passion who spoke and wrote well. Almost at once he turned a simple Laban news-sheet started by Bonnie Bird, North's visionary number two, into a well-illustrated quarterly periodical of vehement feeling, Dance Theatre Journal.

Always the conceptual driving force behind each issue, de Marigny understood the need in British dance journalism for a regular publication which could look outside the parochial world of dance performance and dancing schools. He became one of the first British dance politicians, querying government dance policy and challenging Arts Council decisions where necessary. Above all, as honorary secretary, he worked flat out to help build what is today Dance UK, the national forum for all British dance interests. "He fought unremittingly for the truth, never afraid to speak his mind," says Jane Attenborough, Dance UK's director.

News of this bright, energetic young man spread fast. He advised Dance Umbrella and the Visiting Arts Unit of the British Council. He served on the juries of the Laurence Olivier Awards, the Digital Dance Awards, the International Choreographic Competition at Bagnolet and the International Choreographic Competition at Cagliari. For eight years he chaired the prestigious Bonnie Bird Choreographic Fund.

All this experience and ever-growing international contacts were fed back into de Marigny's editorship and the stream of other publications from the Laban Centre, for which he was responsible. But Dance Theatre Journal was his great achievement. Back issues of the journal have become essential reading for dance degree courses covering British contemporary dance during the last decade of this century, and through the journal he brought forward a generation of new dance writers.

Reading the work of these writers and de Marigny's own work in the journal one is struck by the way he was moving to formulate a politics of dance. He lived his life at a high wattage and produced an unstoppable flow of words. This immense energy was applied to almost every aspect of contemporary British dance organisation and thinking. "He had such courage," said Bonnie Bird. "He took on issues in the journal which others avoided."

Chris de Marigny leaves behind a remarkable legacy in the Laban Centre itself, in national dance organisation and in European dance exchange and co-operation. "He was present always at moments of decision at the centre and everywhere else," said Marion North. "Humanity and humour are as much his legacy as all he built for dance."

Peter Brinson Christopher Harry de Marigny, editor and dance administrator: born Berlin 16 January 1944; died London 29 January 1995.