21st Birthday Cabaret

A cabaret is a performance given (usually in a nightclub) while the audience sit at tables where they can eat a meal or have a drink.  The entertainment to celebrate the 21st Birthday of the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama is referred to as having been a cabaret.  The diners weren’t, however, in a nightclub – they were in an extremely posh restaurant called Frascati’s (please see one of my other posts for further information on this).

It was possible to book different rooms within the restaurant, and I am assuming that there must have been a stage with lighting because one of the dances is described as having been “danced in an enchanting moonlight effect”.

The eight dancers who performed that evening were all trained at Ginner-Mawer and comprised of Helen Guy-Smith, Lois Gray, and Primrose Story (about whom I do not yet know anything.). The fourth dancer, Helga Burgess, is well-known to me as she looms large in the legend of Ginner-Mawer as having been very active around this time.

A fifth, Elinor Shan, was also active around this period.  Her piece for that evening, called “Yoicks! Yoicks!”, was described as a dance-mime.  It was on the theme of hunting, which I assume refers to hunting with dogs, a very popular activity at the time (particularly with the wealthy classes) whereby people on horseback use a pack of dogs to chase a fox and when the dogs catch the terrified and exhausted fox they tear it to pieces.  All jolly good fun…. Elinor’s piece is thought to have been  “one of her wittiest dances”.  

Following Elinor there was “a very amusing character-sketch” called The Dublin Flower-Woman which had been composed by Helga Burgess (and I assume was also danced by her).

After this dancing, came singing – from a man, one of the very few male performers connected with Ginner-Mawer.  He wasn’t actually a student there, but he was married to an Old girl, Joyce Smart (I don’t know anything about Joyce).  Walter Hyde was considered almost to be an ‘Old Boy’ because of this connection and was still considered to be ‘family’.

I was hoping that Walter might have been the famous tenor who was active at that time, however, according to Wikipedia he was married to someone else, not to Joyce Smart.  So I am assuming ‘same name, different person’ (probably before the days of Equity, lol.)

Of the final three dancers one would have needed no introduction to the clientele of the dinner, it was Nancy Sherwood (1908-1995), a true stalwart of the School – starting off as a pupil and then remaining as a teacher until the school closed in 1954.  She danced with Esme Scott and Pamela Watson (of whom I have no other information).

These three danced the final item on the programme.  Composed by Nancy Sherwood, the piece was called In The Fields of Arcadia, “and was one of the loveliest pastorals imaginable, imbued with the Greek ideals of beauty, serenity and sincerity.”

From Wikipedia: Arcadia (Greek: ρκαδία) is a region in the central Peloponnese area of Greece. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas, and in Greek mythology it was the home of the gods Hermes and PanIn European Renaissance arts, Arcadia was celebrated as an unspoiled, harmonious wilderness; as such, it was referenced in popular culture.

We can see, then, that this piece of dancing would have been hugely appropriate as the finale for the celebration of the 21st birthday of the Ginner-Mawer School.

Who provided the music for all of this dancing and singing?  Gramophone records?  An orchestra?  No – the music was provided by the absolute stalwarts of the Ginner-Mawer School, the pianists Kathleen Simpson and Mary Starling.  Total stars.

There was “A vote of congratulations to the Old Ginner Mawer Club Committee for arranging such a delightful dinner and evening.”  Indeed, I think they must have worked very hard to set it all up, well done Ladies!

All the above info is taken from The Link, October 1937, p.21

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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