Dancing Times 1933

This is another in a series of blog posts which are based on newspaper articles.  Among Irene Mawer’s papers left at the time of her death, was an A4-sized hardback book, full of these cuttings which give us a good overview of much of Irene’s career.

This newspaper cutting is not dated.  However, there is a date given in the body of the text referring to 2 July 1933 – so the cutting is likely to have been from sometime shortly after that.  Alongside this article is another cutting, which is dated 1933.

This item, which was printed in The Dancing Times, is of great interest and value – for the first time, I have confirmation of when Irene Mawer founded the Institute of Mime: 2 July 1933.  It also states that the first Secretary was Joyce Ruscoe, who I believe was an ‘old girl’ of the Ginner-Mawer School.

The aims of the Institute are clearly stated: to encourage public interest in mime; and to promote a standardised technique.  In other words, to encourage and promote the Irene Mawer Method of Mime – though for some reason Irene Mawer never referred to the technique by this name.  This is a shame.  I feel that if she had promoted her name alongside the method, then perhaps there would have been more likelihood of her name being remembered, particularly as I believe it was the Irene Mawer Method which went on to be taught at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art,  the Royal Academy of Music; RADA, and at the Rose Bruford College, well into the 1960s.

Scanning to the final section of the article, it can be seen that Members of the Institute of Mime were in place on the staff at the organisations that I have mentioned, plus the Ben Greet Academy (which I have not heard of before); the Webber-Douglas School of Acting; and the YWCA.

At the start-up of the Institute of Mime, Miss Mawer organised for a Temporary Committee to make the necessary organisational decisions.  These committee members came from all the branches of the dramatic arts and the world of dance, plus what Miss Mawer refers to as Social Workers.  I don’t know how closely the Social Worker of the 1930s was in relation to the Social Worker of today – I would imagine they were not the state-run members of Social Services, but rather I imagine they were philanthropists.  I don’t have evidence for this, rather it is the omission from my research of any reference to the state which leads me to this conclusion.  Indeed, the article continues with the clarification that the Social Workers are representatives of the Women’s Institute and other clubs and societies.

The paragraph which talks about the Inaugural Examinations is not clear as to what these were.  As far as I can work out, the exams were a way to ensure a standardisation of technique across the country, so the examinations would be the normal mime exams which the students of the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama had presumably been taking, moved on to a national scale.  I don’t know this for certain, but it seems very likely.  The two examiners were Miss Mawer, plus Mrs Penelope Wheeler.  I haven’t come across Mrs Wheeler before, but she must have been an exceptional person to be the other sole examiner alongside Irene Mawer herself.  She was, the article states, a Member of the Council of the British Drama League and was a member of staff at RADA.  After the Temporary Committee finished their role in the set-up of the Institute of Mime, Mrs Wheeler became a Member of the Council which superseded it.

At this stage in it’s development, the Institute of Mime had a focus on two particular avenues for spreading the word about mime:  the Women’s Institute, plus the British Drama League (Village Drama Section).  These avenues both proved fruitful, however, I have not seen any evidence that future links were continued with the Girl Guide Association (though this does not mean that it did not happen).

This series of newspaper articles will be continued next week.  Please like/share/comment, etc, so that Irene Mawer’s work can be known more widely.  Thank you.



Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

Janet Fizz Curtis is trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement and is now writing a book about the life of Irene Mawer.

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