The first fully qualified dancing teacher in Rhodesia was probably Miss Molly Stuart, Molly held dancing displays at the Empire and Princess Theatres with music supplied by Dan Bothma and Harry Gerber of Gerber's Music Store !
In 1930 Molly married Tom Forbes who had a jewellery store in Bulawayo, Dancing was in the family because the glorious Dawn Nimr Forbes still lives in Bulawayo today ! Betty went on to teach at Mercia Hetheringtons school of ballet.
Betty Bryers school in Salisbury produced the legendary Merle Park, possibly our most famous ballerina. Merle became a Soloist with the Royal Ballet Company in England.
Other well known very early dancing names were Bubbles Howorth, Isobel Cipacci and Hazel Brown.
In the early thirties, Puck Eland, and Mr Jimmy Gilchrist, together with Margaret and Josephine Issels, opened a school in St Georges Building, Main Street, Bulawayo.
(Who could forget Jimmy Gilchrist's eyebrows ?)
Many years later names like Margie Knoeson taught at St Georges building, as did Margaret Dolphin who later married Turk Mine farmer Dave Joubert. Balletomanes will be thrilled to know that Midge Dolphin-Joubert is teaching again in Pietermaritburg !!
Elaine Archibald was another well known name, Elaine was responsible for producing incredible dancers like Gary Burne, Keith Maidwell, Olga Twell, (daughter of the amazing Vida Twell) as well as Desmond Kelly, Ken Yeatman,, Judy Hardy and Dudley Van Loggerenburg.
More recently we remember Phyllis Spira, Jean Allenby, Petrus Bosman Eduard Greyling and Nicolette Loxton who danced at Cape Town, and Graham Rees who is now himself a ballet teacher in Bulawayo. Graham was a product of the well known Macdonald Academy, where Norma Masterson was the principal.
Still living in Bulawayo of course, is the lovely Michelle Masterson (Macmillan). Michelle is now the CEO of Matabele Steam Laundry and how well I remember her brilliant choreography involving, of all things, sheets, at the centenary festival for the steam laundry.
Dorothy Ainscough was yet another famous dancing teacher in Bulawayo as were Miss Dawn Summerton and Miss Dawn Nimr.
A name few people will forget in ballet circles is Rosemary Williams who trained at the Royal ballet in London. Many dancers went from Bulawayo to train in the UK. - Linda Brittain at Royal Academy, Debbie Woods (better known as DebbieYork) also trained at Royal Academy.
Judy Hardy is a name we all remember, married to Alan Hardy who wrote that wonderful book on the History of the Theatre, Ballet and Orchestra in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe 1890 to 1980. Thank you Allan for some of these names which I had forgotten.
From yet another talented dancer Veronica Brown (Now Hopkins) came this little missal -
"Yes I did dance with the MacDonald Academy of Dancing from late l949 to the early sixties, doing ballet, Scottish and tap dancing, as did my sister Florence - our maiden name was Brown. Heather and Norma MacDonald's first studio was at the Masonic Hall - where Doves Funeral Parlor is today. Another two dancers that come to mind are Beryl and Dawn Nimr, who danced at Macdlonald's - Dawn I think married Stuart Forbes of Forbes Jewelers, a very upmarket jewelry shop in Bulawayo, situated in Jason Moyo Street(Abercorn in those days) opposite Zimbank.
Priscilla Stobbs, who I believe still lives in Bulawayo also danced and later taught at the MacDonald Academy. We participated in all the shows, combined studio shows, pantomimes and Eisteddfods.
Another dancer I remember that danced with Dorothy Ainscough was Peggy Gower, she pursued her studies outside the Country and then taught in Bulawayo for a while in the sixties.
Judy Bower: danced during the 50's at the MacDonald Academy of Dancing, founded by Norma and Heather Macdonald, , a beautiful dancer and she did go on to join the Rambert School of Ballet,in London. I recall her being engaged to NORMAN FROST who danced with Gwen Mcoll at the Bulawayo School of Dancing and who also went to London, and danced for a while with the Royal Ballet.
Jean Theobald danced with the Dorothy Ainscough School of Dancing - she was such a talented dancer not only in classical ballet but also amazing at tap and character dancing- she went on, if my memory serves me correctly to finally join the Stuttgart Ballet Company in Germany, where she danced for many years. She did marry a BSAP policeman.
Judy Fischer also danced with the Dorothy Ainscough School of Dancing - I did not know her that well, but she was a beautiful classical ballet dancer and she also danced with the Stuttgart Ballet Company and I think became one of their Principal Ballerinas.
She had a sister called Wendy Fisher who also danced and she taught ballet in Bulawayo during the 70's and early 80's.
Those years were very happy years in Bulawayo's little world of ballet and there was a lot of healthy competition always
culminating in a bi-annual Eistedford which usually lasted a week and the adjudicator normally came from CAPAB in South Africa.
We not only had famous ballerinas, Lynette Lewis went to the Bulawayo Ballet Company and later became a Lido Dancer in Las vegas. Colleen Forsyth from Bulawayo became a star of the Moulin Rouge in Paris.
Acrobatic dancers have played a large part in Bulawayo's dancing life, Desray Ludick has led her talented troup of lithe, lissom ladies for many years, entertaining enthusiastic audiences with their amazing skills. Ballet is still one of the most popular cultural activities in the city and Curtain Call is a show that the Bulawayo public never misses every year at the Bulawayo theatre.
Please forgive me if I have not mentioned everyone, if I have missed anyone out, I would be grateful if you too could supply some names and details of our famous Rhodesian / Zimbabwean dancers.
e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
But one think we all know is that, for a tiny country, we certainly had many,
many more than our fair share of famous ballerinas and dancers !!
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