Movers & Shapers: Margaret Beals

By March 27, 2023April 1st, 2023Podcast

PODCAST 153: Margaret Beals

Release Date: 3.27.23


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The Art of Improvisation with Margaret Beals

For today’s guest, dancing without inhibitions is what has fed her soul for more than 8 decades.  Joining us on Movers & Shapers: A Dance Podcast is the incredible dance improvisation innovator Margaret Beals to tell us all about her years of dancing and her new documentary, Dancing Without Steps. Tuning in, you’ll hear all about our guest’s privileged upbringing, her longing to be free, dancing in her home and the streets of New York City, and why she always stood out as a dancer. She walks us through her early adulthood, dance classes, club and cabaret days, and teaching before explaining how she dealt with being so different. With an amazing ability to perform improvised solo concerts that combined dance, text, music, and humor, she tells us how she realized she was so unlike others in her generation. Finally, Margaret shares her experience of creating her film with us. So to hear all about improvisation and to be inspired to embrace your authentic self, tune in now!

Key Points From This Episode:

·       Margaret tells us about her upbringing and how she started dancing.

·       How she knew her lifestyle was different and why she wanted to be free.

·       Her experience of dancing in her front hall, moving to New York, and dancing in the streets.

·       She tells us her opinion of the definition of ‘talent’ and why she always stood out.

·       What Margaret wanted to do when she was in her 20s and her time doing cabarets and clubs.

·       Margaret tells us about how she got started with teaching.

·       She shares the secret to moving and talking at the same time.

·       How she navigated the challenge of feeling like she doesn’t belong.

·       Getting the rights to Sylvia Plath’s works and performing poetry in an original play.

·       How Margaret shares her methodologies with dancers.

·       Margaret shares what she is working on in her field now.

·       How her movie, Dancing Without Steps, became a reality.

·       The importance of accepting your unapologetically unique self.

“I don’t think I danced to please. I danced the way I danced and hoped everybody would see it.” — Margaret Beals


Margaret Beals, an American dancer, choreographer and theatrical performer, was self-taught during her early years. She later studied choreography with Louis Horst and Lucas Hoving, modern dance with Martha Graham, Jose Limon, and Paul Sanasardo; African-Caribbean dance with Syvilla Fort and ten years of ballet with Maggie Black. She developed an individual approach to dance through improvisation and later added the use of her speaking voice, developing a technique of performing poetry by speaking and moving simultaneously. This skill was used in her dramatic presentations of the works of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sylvia Plath and Carl Sandburg.

In the 60’s, she continued her exploration of dance improvisation, performing at cabarets and nightclubs in New York and Chicago. She worked with the jazz musicians Collin Walcott, Badal Roy, Sam Rivers and Stan Strickland, among many others. Her continued passion for improvisation led her to form her own company, Impulses – three musicians, singer, dancer and lighting designer. Between 1969 and 1976 the group created fully improvised evenings in the style of jazz sets.

During the 70’s, Ms. Beals appeared with the modern dance companies of Jose Limon, Anna Sokolow, Jean Erdman, Lucas Hoving and Valerie Bettis. She is acclaimed for her interpretation of Ms. Bettis’ classic dance solo, The Desperate Heart (1974). As a solo artist, she performed her own work, Margaret Beals in Concert, appearing at Jacob’s Pillow; the NY Dance Umbrella; the Delacorte Theatre; The Place, London; the International Festival de Danse, Paris; and the Het Theatre Festival, Holland, among other national and international venues.

Her full-length works include Stings (1976), based on the Ariel poems of Sylvia Plath; 39 Margarets(1980), a revue directed by Broadway’s Donald Saddler; The Teak Room, stories from a dancer’s life (1982), written and performed by the artist and directed by Tony Tanner; and Improvisations to Chopin (1985) with pianist Thomas Hrynkiv. In the 90’s, she created 4 Images (1993) an evening of poetry, music and dance, with flautist Judith Pearce, directed by Tony Tanner; and Pathways(1997), written and performed by Ms. Beals and directed by Obie award-winning playwright Lee Nagrin.

Recently, Ms. Beals presented Films and Stories, a series of evenings in which she shared films from her extensive career interspersed with stories about the creation of the works and her collaboration with other performing artists involved.“The films are a remarkable record of a remarkable career.” – Jean Tait, May 2016



Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:


Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton

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