Woman Sager, Peggy
Written by Grace Edwards, The University of Melbourne
Born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1924, the youngest of five children, Peggy Sager began her dance training learning 'fancy dancing' but received her most substantive early dance training in Hamilton with teachers from Auckland's Nettleton-Edwards School. Sager passed her Intermediate and Advanced exams of the Royal Academy of Dancing in 1941 and shortly afterwards left New Zealand to pursue a career in Australia. Just a couple of years earlier, she had seen a performance of the acclaimed Covent Garden Russian Ballet on its tour of New Zealand in 1939. Though she was told by one of its renowned dancers Anton Dolin that she was 'not a chocolate-box beauty,' Sager remained determined to become a dancer and she and her mother got on a boat to Sydney (Potter interview).
Following her arrival, Sager continued taking classes and passed the Academy's Solo Seal exam. Sager joined the Sydney-based Kirsova Ballet in late 1941, with which she danced classics such as Swan Lake and Les Sylphides. Sager also created roles in Hélène Kirsova's own choreography including the 'Soul of the Lost Umbrella' in Kirsova's full-length work The Revolution of the Umbrellas, which premiered in Sydney on 9 February 1943. In 1945, following the demise of Kirsova's company, Sager joined the Borovansky Ballet, directed by Edouard Borovansky, a former dancer with Colonel de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (essentially the same company as the Covent Garden Russian Ballet which had inspired Sager as a child). Sager performed with his company until illness forced her to retire in 1959. Her repertoire included the role of the Spirit of Australia in Terra Australis, which Borovansky created on her in 1946, the Ballerina in Petrouchka, the leading roles in Borovansky's full-length productions of Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Princess and many leading roles in one-act productions of classics and new works. Her partners included her first husband, Paul Hammond, Vassilie Trunoff, Royes Fernandez, Paul Grinwis, Charles Boyd, Miro Zloch, Robert Pomie and Garth Welch. Sager was regarded as an outstanding technician with great strength and a talent for turns, an idol for many young Australian dancers growing up in the 1950s. In the late 1940s, during a lay off period for the Borovansky Ballet, Sager worked in the United Kingdom. She featured as a soloist in the 1948 film The Red Shoes and then joined Metropolitan Ballet, enjoying particular success in John Taras' Design with Strings. Sager subsequently moved to Europe and danced with the Brussels Opera until Borovansky asked her to return to Australia to rejoin the Borovansky Ballet for its new season in 1951.
Sager enjoyed had a long career as a teacher and adjudicator. Her first major period of teaching began in 1953 when she and Hammond started a ballet school in Melbourne. In 1954 she went to London to successfully sit the examination for the Advanced Teacher's Certificate of the Royal Academy and, after her forced retirement, teaching assumed more significance in her life. For many years she directed the Peggy Sager School of Ballet in Mt Eliza, just out of Melbourne. She also served briefly on the board of the Australian Ballet. Sager died in 2002.
National Library of Australia Oral History Collection
- 'Sager, Peggy (1924-2002)', in Australia Dancing, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/35285/20120626-0000/www.australiadancing.org/subjects/103.html. Details
- 'All She wanted to do was dance', The Sydney Morning Herald, Obituary, 2 August 2002, http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/08/01/1028157818948.html. Details
- Peggy Sager interviewed by Michelle Potter
- 10 November 1994 - 11 November 1994
- National Library of Australia
- National Library of Australia Oral History Collection