Spencer, Penelope (1901–1993) By Robinson, Anne
The career of the English “creative” dancer, choreographer, teacher, and dance writer Penelope Spencer spanned the period between the World Wars. Spencer’s versatile training and career encompassed diverse British theater genres, including ballet, drama, mime, modern dance, musical comedy, opera, pantomime, and revue. She practiced consecutively as a freelance artist and under the auspices of enlightened cultural institutions, including the Arts Theatre Club, British Broadcasting Corporation, British National Opera Company, Camargo Society, Glastonbury Festival, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and Royal College of Music. Her published articles explored the relationship between dance and music, the importance of dance to actors and musicians, and dance as a collaborative art form, promoting the Wagnerian concept of Gesamtkunstwerk. During the interwar period, Spencer made significant and pioneering contributions to British theater dance and wider cultural heritage, while incorporating progressive philosophies into her choreography and teaching.