With the turning of the century, fresh energy seemed to infuse Vancouver's theatrical entertainment scene, and important connections were made to the American vaudeville circuits run out of Seattle. Much activity was due to Ernest Ramsay Ricketts, who took over the lease at the Vancouver Opera House from 1902 to 1912, and at some point began an association with Seattle impresario John Cort. The depression of 1894 was past, and the soaring economy and building boom that had begun with the Klondike gold rush of 1897-98 would continue until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
During the early part of the 20th century a number of appearances by major dance artists stand out. Loie Fuller made her second visit to the city in 1901, while in 1910 the legendary Anna Pavlova, a prima ballerina at the Maryinsky Theatre who began dancing outside Russia in 1907, made the first of five Vancouver appearances; the venue for both performers was the Opera House. In 1911 Gertrude Hoffman's La Saison des Ballets Russes was on the Opera House stage, while her second appearance in 1917 was on a vaudeville bill at the New Orpheum.
When another Russian legend, Vaslav Nijinsky, appeared with the Ballet Russe in 1917, the performance was billed as being at the Opera House but it was actually at the Empress Theatre on the southwest corner of Hastings and Gore Streets, which was temporarily using the Opera House name.
Danish-British ballerina Adeline Genée, whose ten-year reign as the most popular dancer at the London Empire Theatre had ended in 1907, appeared in 1913 at the Imperial Theatre at 720 Main Street. The Imperial, built in 1912, still stands today, although in a rather dilapidated state, in use as a pornographic movie house called the Venus Theatre.
Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn made numerous Vancouver appearances. The first was in 1915 at the Avenue Theatre. The pair appeared in a vaudeville bill in 1917, while the following year St. Denis was assisted by dancer Margaret Loomis; both appearances were at the Orpheum. In 1919 at the Pantages, Doris Humphrey, who would become an important American modern dancer, choreographer and teacher, was one of those assisting St. Denis, while at the same theatre in both 1920 and 1921 a young Martha Graham, who in years to come would develop her own, now famous technique and become a modern dance legend, was featured in Shawn's Xochitl. Finally, at the end of 1924, the Denishawn Company, with both St. Denis and Shawn, was at the Orpheum. (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse