Born in Brighton, England in 1885, Gladys Attree completed her dance training in London before immigrating to Canada in 1914. Once she had established her first school in Nelson, the Attree School of Dance, she gradually expanded throughout the region, and then to Calgary, Lethbridge and Vancouver. Attree's husband, Jack Hirst, played the piano for classes, and her step-daughters, Joyce and Phyllis Hirst, were lead dancers in her Vancouver shows.
In 1927 the Gladys Attree Dancers were at the Pantages as part of the stage line-up (two films comprised the screen part of the bill). A newspaper photo, headlined “Frolicsome Foot-Artists Face Photographer,” shows seven pertly posed dancers. The caption reads:
Professional terpsichorean artists must look to their laurels. The Gladys Attree dancers, who have been gracing the boards at the Pantages during the past two weeks, have amazed audiences with their artistry, poise and precise rhythm of movement. They are all local girls, although their stage appearance, costuming and settings vie with some of the best terpsichorean vaudeville productions that have come out of New York (Sun, June 9, 1927).
The Hirst sisters were known as the “Attree Flashes” when they toured in Canada and the United States on the RKO (Radio Keith Orpheum) circuit. Later, the sisters would direct the Vancouver-based Attree School of Dancing at Davie and Granville.
One of Attree's Nelson students was among the dancers with Ruth St. Denis in her fourth Vancouver appearance. The Sun review on May 20, 1919 singles out the local girl: “Miss St. Denis has with her a highly competent group of young ladies, one of whom, , a clever British Columbia girl, reveals marked ability in various ensembles.” (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse