The Barbes School de Ballet - “The Only School de Ballet in B.C.” - was a well-known institution located in 1920 at the West End Academy at 1166 West Georgia Street. Mlle. Belates-Barbes, assisted by a staff of teachers, taught toe, classic, step, Grecian, Oriental, eccentric and interpretation, as well as the latest ballroom dances.
In 1923 a new studio opened at the Alexandra Pavilion at the corner of Robson and Hornby Streets. According to city directories, the school would change name and location throughout the decade: in 1925 it was the Barbes-Tucker School of the Dance (Violet G. Barbes and Lionel Tucker) at 804 Hornby, in 1926 the Barbes School of Dance was at 1016 Robson, and in 1929 the Duncan-Barbes Dancers were at 2746 West Broadway.
One of the school's presentations was the inventive Land of Wonders, an open-air revue held at Stanley Park on a mid-week afternoon in early September 1920, under the direction of Mme. Barbes, Mademoiselle's mother. It was remounted a month later at a venue called the Arena, when the proceeds were used for the purchase of reference books for school libraries.
The Sun's society page preview, which appeared on August 31 after the dress rehearsal of the initial production, is headed “Lovely Costumes for the 'Land of Wonder' Revue”, presumably getting their readers' priorities right. Notable in the cast lists are Ada (sometimes spelled Aida) Broadbent, and Miss Mary Isdale and her students.
The review that followed on September 2, published on the Province's Social and Personal page, suggests that the young artists and the whimsical work were greatly appreciated.
The scene near the pavilion is lovely enough on any summer day, but yesterday with groups of flying figures in gauzy, rainbow-colored costumes, the wide lawn, with its flower beds and sunken pool, encircled by tall, majestic trees, became a scene the like of which could only be found between the covers of a fairy tale.
The premise was a simple one:
The dances and songs which composed the revue were all presented before, and for the pleasure of the 'Queen of British Columbia,' who with her court paraded around the lawn before taking a seat upon her throne where she reclined in stately grace, surrounded by her attendants during the entire performance.
The Queen was entertained by a lengthy program, beginning with a rendition of Here's a Ho, Vancouver by Mr. J.E. Pacey, and including a dance called Sprites of the Park, as well as dances and songs on a Robin Hood theme. There was also a ballet called Betty's Adventures, another story about a little girl stolen by gypsies. Little Margaret McDougall, the “youngest interpretative dancer on the Pacific coast” according to the preview, and slated to play the fortuneteller, was unfortunately taken ill and missed the performance. (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse