Prince Philip of Greece


              “…reeds don’t sway from side to side…”

The five year old boy earnestly criticised his teacher, Dorothy Reavely, as she struggled to find her teaching feet in 1920s France.  As a graduate of Ginner-Mawer, she had a good, solid training on which to stand – but how could anyone answer the “little fair personality” with his observation that “…reeds don’t sway from side to side, but only one way ‘cos the wind can’t blow from two sides at once”!  

Miss Reavely had no way of knowing, that day in 1927, that her earnest critic, Prince Philip of Greece, would one day be crowned upon the throne of England, as the husband of Queen Elizabeth the Second.  It might have brought some succor to poor Dorothy while she was suffering terribly from homesickness and loneliness as she established herself as a teacher of dance in the Paris.  Having arrived in the August of the previous year, she spent the first few months trudging around every Information Bureau and every Club in a hope of finding pupils.  She had very few ‘introductions’ from friends or colleagues back home in England, and worked hard at improving her French language skills as she also ‘worked up’ her contacts.

After visiting at least fifty finishing schools, where she repeatedly stated the aims of the work she offered and sought, she finally began to “bend and stretch” her first pupil – for “two hours a week. In a small french drawing-room, very full of bric-a-brac”.

The anecdote concerning the young Prince Philip took place when Miss Reavely stood-in for an absent teacher for a week at an American kindergarten school in Paris – where the children were “all bursting with ideas … and they loved, particularly, to be caterpillars!”  It would seem that Dorothy Reavely was teaching Classical Greek Dancing as she says “I find it pays to realise what Greek swords and helmets and shields really were like, for boys know a staggering deal about soldiering.”  However, Prince Philip didn’t show any particular promise at warfare, as she continues “…though these particular lads were extraordinarily unconvincing at simple Pyrrhic actions.”  (Pyrrhic being the section of Greek Dance that depicts the war-like movements of soldiers.)

Mime training was an important part of the training of a dancer in the Classical (Revived) Greek Method, so it makes me smile a little bit to imagine that the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of England, once mimed being a caterpillar under the instruction of a teacher trained by Irene Mawer.  

Six degrees of separation: Prince Philip, Dorothy Reavely, Irene Mawer, Nora Durling (my teacher), Me!  LOL.

The Link, October 1927

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