Woman Lasica, Margaret
Written by Ann Standish, The University of Melbourne
Margaret Lasica was born Margaret Weiss in Vienna in 1926. She migrated with her family to Melbourne in 1939, where they changed their last name to 'Wickham'. It was here that she later met and married lawyer William Lasica. She became a leading proponent and teacher of modern dance in Melbourne, both through her studio, Extensions, which was located in Carlton, and through her teaching at the Melbourne Kindergarten Teachers' College and the University of Melbourne.
During the 1940s, Margaret studied with Ruth Bergner, another European emigre who had an impact on the cultural life of post-World War II Melbourne. Bergner drew on Jewish and European traditional dance forms to create modern dance performances with underlying political and social meanings. Lasica was influenced by Bergner's style and maintained it to an extent in her own work, as a member of the Modern Ballet Group in the 1950s and the Modern Dance Ensemble (MDE), which she founded in 1967. The MDE performed as a group until 1981, after which the ensemble continued to produced occasional works including Image '83, Dance '84, Image '85 and Image '90.
Margaret choreographed and performed modern dance and was a member of the dance panel of the Theatre Board of the Australia Council, but her leadership in the field occurred most strongly through her teaching. Her daughter, Shelley, a noted modern performance artist, says 'Her teaching was constant and initially she was very active with the MDE. As people left, she shifted her involvement from choreography to facilitation' (Fensham, Lasica and Lasica). Her facilitation encouraged a great many dancers to extend their range and experiment with their movement. She was, for example, a pivotal influence on the Melbourne-born dancer, Lloyd Newson, a member of the MDE who went on to found the project-based dance and physical theatre company DV8 Physical Theatre in the United Kingdom. The company has an international reputation for innovative dance performance.
Lasica's Carlton studio was recognised as a 'significant centre for modern dance' throughout the 1980s and early 1990s' (Lasica, Trove), until Margaret's death in 1993. Apart from her influence on two generations of dance students, Lasica has also left a lasting legacy in her attempts to document the history of modern dance in Australia in the 'Modern Dance History Project and Archive', now held with the Margaret Lasica Papers in the National Library of Australia manuscript collection.
National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection
- Brissenden, Alan and Glennon, Keith, Australia Dances: Creating Australian Dance, 1945-1965, Wakefield Press, Kent Town, South Australia, 2010. Details
- Margaret Lasica Collection Library Guide, The University of Melbourne: University Library, The University of Melbourne, 24 September 2010. http://unimelb.libguides.com/Margaret_Lasica_Collection. Details
- Fensham, Rachel; Lasica, Shelley and Lasica, Wendy, 'Studio practices 1, extensions: room to move', in Real Time, http://www.realtimearts.net/article/9/10081. Details