The Helen Crewe Dancing Academy was another early B.C. dance school. Helen Crewe, born in England in 1885, came to Canada in 1917. A graduate of Espinosa's British Normal School of Dancing in London, Crewe opened a dance school in Prince Rupert in 1922. In 1926 she re-established her school in New Westminster, and in 1928 she opened a branch studio in Vancouver, in the hall of St. John's Church of England on West 27th Avenue at Granville Street.
On Saturday, December 19, 1930, about 60 of her pupils performed in the Hotel Vancouver's Crystal Ballroom, with proceeds going to the Province Santa Claus Fund. Crewe's scrapbook contains an unidentified review, which says in part:
The first number was a class demonstration of drill and dancing given by Mrs. Crewe's pupils, the performers ranging from tiny tots to those of the advanced senior class. A charming picture was created by the graceful figures in costumes of varying shades of pale pink, blue, yellow, green and orchid, the kaleidoscopic effect during the ballroom dance being especially effective. The toy orchestra conducted by little Diana Sky was enjoyed by young and old....
Crewe was also the dancing instructor at York House School from its inaugural year of 1932 and at the kindergarten at nearby Glen Brae Academy. A Vancouver Stage Academy brochure, circa 1930, lists Crewe as one of their dance teachers (the other was Gabrielle Steedman, who taught stage dancing). The Academy offered music, drama and dancing “for those who wish to dance professionally or for those who wish to dance for pleasure and body culture.”
Like many dedicated dance teachers, Crewe took advanced studies throughout her long career. In the summer she would visit the United States or England to keep in touch with the latest developments in dance.
Crewe's daughter, Joan Crewe Straight, taught at the Helen Crewe Dancing Academy after a course of intensive study in London with Mlle. Pruzina, a member of Pavlova's original company. Straight opened her own school at 603 West Hastings Street in 1941, and did the choreography for Theatre Under the Stars from 1940-43. One of her mother's pupils, Kay Armstrong, taught Straight's daughters and granddaughters. (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse