The young girls and boys who knew how to put on their dancing shoes
Last updated at 20:12, Thursday, 21 June 2012
I don't know who was playing what, but in September 1934, the four members of an orchestra – it would have been more accurate to call them a quartet – provided the music for a dancing display at the Dean Street parish room in Workington.
Any money raised was to go to help support Workington Infirmary.
Regular readers will probably know that I have an interest in the composition of the various musical combinations which have operated in our area. All too often all you glean from the early local newspapers is the name of the band – but nothing about who played in the band.
In this instance, what you get are the names of players – but no mention of a band name – always assuming that it ever had one. They were: Miss Kraft, GW Lawson, J Crone and T Drummond. The papers of the day rarely gave people’s first names. Very annoying!
I’ve always known that our area was mad keen on dancing – and there can have been very few young, and older, girls who didn’t take dancing classes. I bet a good proportion of the local female population, until fairly recently, could launch into a competent tap dance routine or even a spot of ballet. But that was then – I wonder how many now bother to take dancing lessons.
I’ve always assumed that most youngsters wanting to dance would attend one of the local schools of dance. But in 1934, the girls taking part in the show had signed up for a series of lessons which had been organised by a dance teacher “from away.”
Enter Miss Nora Combe, who was described as being a “London and Newcastle instructress.” It would seem that she only held classes in our area in winter – something she did for a number of years. Unless, of course, you know any different.
The show consisted of a dozen scenes, featuring as many of the attendees as possible. Many of the scenes had a foreign theme – seemingly very popular with some dance teachers – and probably requiring those performing to don “national” costumes. This, for many families in the 1930s, could have been an unwanted expense.
It’s time to name a few of Nora Combe’s pupils. Any names ring a bell? I want to kick off with the members of the Douglas family. There was Mary, Edna and their brothers – I assume - David and Bryan. This last pair seemed to be the only boys appearing in the display – or could it be that they were the only boys attending the classes?
So who else was performing? How about Marjorie Dixon, Dorothy Vingo, Dorothy Norman, Joyce Wilson, Margaret Mitchell, Kathleen Carter Maisie Bie, Kathleen Harding, Joan Ogilvie, Enid Ferguson, Sheila Story, Mary Carr and Isabel Rubery. They were supported by dancers from the Whitehaven Operatic Society.
Usual questions coming up! When did these winter classes come to an end? And anyone know what became of Nora Combe?
In December 1930, the pupils of another dancing instructress gave a display in the Co-operative Hall, Maryport. Miss Mary Marshall was an offcomer – she was based in Carlisle and, it seems that she also taught in other parts of the county.
I don’t know what dancing background the local reporter possessed, but his/her comments on the performance of West Cumbrian dancers was a bit condescending. To quote: “The Maryport pupils are progressing admirably but while supple, agile and graceful, have not reached the stage of professional proficiency attained by the longer trained Carlisle pupils.”
The programme went down well with the audience. The “spirited Highland Fling” performed by Joan Carser, one of the Maryport pupils, was one of the highlights of the evening. As the theme of the evening seemed to be based on national dances, the performers were all kitted out, as far as possible, in authentic-looking costumes. It seems that, then as now, a lot of importance was attached to dressing authentically.
So “tiny” Joan Carser wore a “correct Highland costume with kilt and a plaid of red Stuart tartan.” Maryport’s Kathleen Nixon went down well with the audience with her solo dance as Little Bo-Peep. She, reportedly, carried a silver crook and was “beautiful in delicate shades of lavender and pink.”
Another item on the programme was a “Dutch Dance” – all participants being dressed in Dutch costumes. An added “scenic accessory” was a windmill built by Maryport UDC Surveyor, Mr Williams.
Space only to mention a few – but it does go to show that dance, in all its forms, was alive and well in 1930s West Cumbria.
First published at 19:20, Thursday, 21 June 2012
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk