Famous names are perhaps the most visible part of an arts scene, but though there's more material on hand when it comes to the “stars,” they obviously weren't providing the only dance in town. Who else, for example, was dancing around the time of Pavlova's well-reported visit?
In October 1910 the Pantages' bill included the Henrys. According to the brief Province report: “The Henrys are billed as European whirlwind dancers, and they certainly gyrate around the stage with a zealous enthusiasm that is most exciting.” “Woods and Green, the Ballroom Boys” appeared at the Pantages in November. The same month, Lind, “one of the greatest living female impersonators,” was at the Orpheum. It was the Province's view on November 4 that Lind, “in his series of dancing, including the Spanish, La Paraguay, and the Dance of the Five Senses, is seen to the best advantage.” McNance, a clay sculptor on the same bill, worked on stage in front of the audience, creating busts of familiar figures like Shakespeare and the Venus de Milo.
Shortly thereafter, some Russian dancers were on a bill with actress Virginia Harned, who was performing in The Woman He Married. In fact, Russian dancers seemed to be everywhere: a couple of days after Pavlova's performance, the Pantages advertised the Saretsky Troupe of Russian Dancers, “A Distinct European Novelty.” There were also three clever fox terrier acrobats on the bill, as well as a film.
Not all was smooth sailing for dance or for theatre in general. An address about the evils of theatre was given by another man of the cloth, this time a Reverend Morton Smith, which the Province reported on November 14, 1910. Reverend Smith believed that theatres did not “have a rightful place in the city as they presented wrong views of life and were great time-wasters.”
A more serious challenge to live performance was offered by moving pictures; in October 1902, Mr. and Mrs. Schuberg had opened Vancouver's first “permanent” movie theatre, the Electric, at 38 Cordova Street. At least there was dancing on view at the movies: at the Princess, Robert the Silent was playing in November, 1910, in which the “dancing of Mlle Napierkowska of the Paris Grand Opera, who enacts the part of the gypsy girl, is the highest form of art.” The film was described as “the most artistic picture ever displayed in Vancouver.”
In September 1911, a month before Gertrude Hoffman and the Russians made it into town, the Pantages Theatre was showing The Awakening of Buddaa, an “Oriental Fantastic Dancing Legend of Ancient India,” while the Orpheum had Kramer and Ross, who had “no excuse for singing, but they do some of the best clog dancing ever offered on the Orpheum stage.”
In 1913, at the same time that the irreproachable Adeline Genée was at the Imperial, a Miss Lili Croiste was at the Panama. Her “captivating dancing number” was part of an evening that featured a “tabloid racing drama” called A 30-to-1 Shot, set to music. At later performances, Miss Arthmore Gray presented “her sensational Salome and other classical dances....” At the Orpheum, Alberta Moore and Myrtle Young, “two clever and attractive girls,” presented a singing and dancing novelty.
And in 1915, when the exotic American, Ruth St. Denis, was in town, Love in a Sanitarium was the headline attraction for a vaudeville bill at Loew's Theatre, which also had moving pictures and the Purcelle Brothers, the “Jimmy Valentine Twins”, in new and novel dances. In the reviewer's opinion in the Province on January 12, 1915: “The Purcelle Brothers make their hit with their Sing Sing, chained together, dance. It is unique and includes some clever steps and reverses. Few people would expect to see convicts chained together do the latest tango steps and go a little better, but they do it.”
A month later at Loew's on February 23, 1915, the Province reported: “the big feature of the bill was Elsie Gilbert and her bounding girls.... The skipping rope dance with electric effects was picturesque.” Four collie dogs were also part of her act, and European war scenes were shown during the “war pictures of the week”.
In 1917, what was happening besides Vaslav Nijinsky? It must have been cold that winter, because there was outdoor skating at Trout Lake, Beaver Lake, Burnaby Lake and at the head of False Creek, with a phone line for skating information. For those preferring indoor activities, there were plenty of films on view, including Theda Bara in Romeo and Juliet at the Dominion, Mary Pickford in Less Than the Dust at the Rex and Pavlova in The Dumb Girl of Portici at the Globe, with a ten-piece orchestra.
Dance and party frocks, “alluring in their daintiness and becomingness”, in pink, sky blue, rose, maize and white, were for sale, perhaps to wear to one of W.E. Fenn's Assembly Dances, held every Wednesday evening, with a 50 cent admission charge for gentlemen. A frock would also be needed for the reception and dance put on at the Cotillion Hall, at the corner of Granville and Davie Streets, by Miss Goddard in aid of Belgian children.
Grace Goddard, an early mover and shaker who stayed the course in Vancouver, was, in the late 1940s, a teacher of Lynn Seymour, who was later celebrated for her work in British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan's dramatic ballets. Goddard was then in her seventies, and according to Richard Austin's biography of Seymour, “taught both dancing and swimming, and usually wore a plastic bathing cap as a symbol of her dual responsibilities.”
A few weeks after Nijinsky and the Ballet Russe were at the Opera House, the Greater Morgan Dancers were the top bill at the Orpheum. The company was an outgrowth of the Marion Morgan Dancers, which had been started by a former teacher of gym and aesthetic drills. On January 31, 1917 the Sun's H.C. reviewed the troupe, which was appearing in a Roman ballet in three episodes, including a scene set in the temple of the Vestal Virgins. H.C. compared the décor favourably to Léon Bakst's for the Ballet Russe. (next page)
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