Winnipeg West (1945)

The November, December tour to Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton came up with similar responses

A lot of publicity for this young and unknown company. It set the stage for the future. The foundation for the company that still exists. The dancers who took part in those tours, were green to this side of the life in a ballet company.

One aspect of this tour, and as a matter of fact most of those early performances, was, the fact that all of the music the company used came from 78 rpm records.

A sound system was set up in the wings , with an amplifier and a turntable and speakers.

Gweneth Lloyd had evolved a system where had marked the records with poster paint to cue in the next selection. She put the needle on the record herself during the show.

There was one occasion when someone tripped over the wire running to the sound equipment. It came to a halt, but through quick thinking, it was reconnected and the dancers being very familiar with the music, picked up the choreography when Gweneth put the needle back on the record.

This process of using records went on right into the era of the LP recordings.

The 1939 performance had used an orchestra, but financial problems would not allow that to happen again for many years.

Impressions of this second tour are a mixed bag. Memory of the actual performances is clouded. The stages were adequate for our needs, the audience response was always good. The press glowing.

Regina leaves me with an impression of the city itself. A very pretty garden like city. I was suitably impressed with the Legislative Buildings. It was small but attractive.

Saskatoon leaves me with a railway station and long wide streets. One event that would leave a lasting impression happened in Saskatoon. We were invited to watch some films of Russian Ballet. We all jumped at this opportunity. A dingy hall was the site. A lot of people other than ourselves.

The films left me spellbound. We saw a young Ulanova doing the pas de deux from the second act of Swan Lake. These films were taken in the late 30’s. She was in league that I had not as yet witnessed. There was a film of Taras Bulba with Russian dance like I had never imagined possible. Coal miners from the backwoods of Russia doing things that made all of the male dancers watching , jealous. The film that can still give me goose bumps to this day, when I picture it, was Bayadere, with Chabukiani. This man became a yardstick to measure male dancing by. So strong, so masculine, so musical.

The films ended and I for one was breathless. Then a strange thing happened. A man, looking all the world like Lenin, went to the front of the hall and began speaking. We then became aware of the main drive to this meeting. This was a branch of the Communist Party, we were going to be given a lecture on the party policy.

Gweneth Lloyd quickly stood up and announced that the dancers had a very busy schedule and would not be able to stay any longer. She thanked them for the films, and we left.

Edmonton was buzzing with the news about the Alaska Highway that was being built. It was the construction event of the century according to some of the locals.

We performed in the Empire Theatre, now gone. We stayed in one of those “grand tour’ railway hotels, the MacDonald. I had been told about the hotel by my uncle Dr. Alan Mozley. He said that apart from the accommodations, the food was very good.

I investigated and heard about a special dish that was the SpecialitÈ de la maison, BAKED ALASKAN. Named I gathered in celebration of the Highway.

I arrived in the dining room before the rest of the company, made my inquiry, and ordered. After my first course the Baked Alaskan arrived. Cake and ice cream covered with a mountain of beaten egg white, browned. So it was hot on the outside, and cold, on the inside. It was filling, and delicious.

Other members of the company saw this dessert and asked what it was, and could they have one. NO! came the response from the waiter. The oven used to bake it was turned off. They could only make so many in an evening.

As well as performing in the Empire we also danced at the American Red Cross Club House, a sort of canteen for the American troops stationed in Edmonton. After the show we met a real live movie star. Lon McCallister who we had all seen in a movie called “Stage Door Canteen” was stationed in Edmonton. He came to our table, signed autographs and had pictures taken of the event, which he signed. That picture is still in my memorabilia.