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Monday, December 14, 2009


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

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 !!


  1. Good day , my name is laurence buchanan and would really like to get into contact again with mty friend dawn nimr-forbes but have lost contact with her , if anyone knows how to contact her please mail me at i met her in cape town some years back and have lost all contact details . please help.
    thank you kindly

  2. I will place a notice on the Zimbabwe Genweb pages for you

  3. Hello,Benito Marcelino is my name. I would also like to contact mrs Nimr-Forbes,i was a guest at her house as i came to dance with Rosmary Williams in Zimbabwe way back in the beginning of the 80's.
    It would be a great joy to hear from both of them. Kind Regards.

  4. This is Rosemary Frost (nee Williams) I am so amazed at finding so much information online about our dancing life in Bulawayo! I would so much like to make contact again with Benito Marcelino and so many others - can you send me contact details - I have even lost touch with my marvelous teacher Dawn Nimr-Forbes and would love to hear from her. I am now in Melbourne, Australia running a very successful ballet school.

  5. Hi. My name is Greg and I was friends with Mrs Dawn Nimr Forbe's two daughters as we lived over the road from them. It would be great to contact then again and catch up the last 20plus years. My email address is

  6. Hi my name is Fenrith( nee ShaeR)I went to Elain Archibald school of danceing during the 50ties.I danced with Dudley Van Loggerenburg in many a duet.My older sister Myrna danced with Dawn Summerton.We both live in SA now.My mother Francis Shaer used to make all the ballet costumes for Elaine.If anyone knows the where abouts of Noreen Chisholm I would like to get in contact with her.She is my daughter Suzette's Godmother.e-mail

    1. As far as I know, Ms Chisholm lives in the UK. She is good friends with June Christian, a renowned ballet teacher (taught me at the RAD 1984-87). Ms Chisholm would often observe classes and sometimes teach too. Look her up on

  7. Hi. Does anyone remember the name of the dance school that provided most of the dancers for the Byo Theatre musicals in the early 80s? I recall the name Chandre Gould or similar. There were definitely ballet classes there too, including dancers like Juliet French-Constant and another whose surname I think was Human. I was one of the ropier dancers that were sent out to do the musicals. Still bloody great fun, they were too.

  8. I love dancing that is why I can fully relate in this topic. I had a great time reading the whole article and I find it very interesting and informative post.

  9. If Beryl and Dawn Nimr ever read this note, an old classmate from Goncharov in London, send you kind thoughts.
    Robert de Warren

  10. Hi.Its Heather Brady (now Lewis) here. I danced at MacDonald Academy of Dancing from 1968 to 1982.Principal Ballet teachers Norma Masterson, Heather Rees, Priscilla Stobbs & Graham Rees. Mrs Joan Henderson played piano for us, other teachers were Gaye Kennedy- Tap & Modern, Wendy Fisher- Contemporary Modern, Sheila Gault & Stella Gerrish- Highland Dancing. Raymond Bulpit-Ballroom. My sister is Lynis(now Kotze)or as Graham Rees called her 'Lady Gadiva' Juliet Ffrench- Constant was in my class. She joined CAPAB & then left. She married & last I saw her she was working in interior design in Cape Town. Other names I remember were Shannon Van Den Burg, Darlene Simpson, Colleen Du Toit, Cheryl Macmillan, Beverley Henderson, Audrey( sorry I cant remember her surname) Joy & Jill Taylor, Sarah Wilkins, Joanne & Robyn Denyer. There was also another male ballet dance named Eddie. Later my class joined in the fun at the Bulawayo Ballet Company on Friday nights. Fritha King- Ballet was our Principal Teacher. Kim Smith, Vicki Weldon, Lorraine & Melanie Strattfold, Rosemary Williams & Gail. I would love to hear from anyone who still remembers me

    1. Hi Heather - My name is Karen Hunter (now Brown). We danced together at the Macdonald Academy for a few years. I especially remember one ballet we did and we were partners - it was called Suite Dansant and we wore black and white tutu's and I remember making u laugh shortly before the curtain went up and you had to make a mad dash to the loo - luckily you made it back in time before the curtain went up.

  11. Hi, anyone knows of Diane MacLeod (nee Cullen) ex Livingstone in the '50's, she also went to RAD to further her studies and also taught Ballet in Livingstone, we lost contact with her 1n the 60/70's, she had 5 daugthers,last we heard they were in the Margate area (south Coast Natal), George & Brenda Watson