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Alberta Ballet: Prologue

Alberta Ballet: Prologue

  • 50 anniversary
  • alberta ballet
  • origins

By Cindy Soderstrom, Director of Communications, Alberta Ballet with Candice Harris, daughter of Muriel Taylor.

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Alberta Ballet Founder Ruth Carse grew up in Alberta and, by the 1950s, was training at the Royal Academy of Dancing in London, England. 

Have you ever wondered what happened in 1954 that drew her back to her roots in Alberta to teach at the Muriel Taylor School of Dancing? 

Read on for the answer!

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Alberta Ballet, at 50, has a beautiful history. The 2016-17 season is a celebration of both where we’ve been and where we’re going.

At the heart of this institution, there’s also a question about where we began.  Who were the people?  Where were the places?  And what were the motivations that led up to the 1966 founding of Alberta Ballet?

When the National Post wrote about Alberta Ballet’s 40th anniversary in October 2006, it offered a nod to Alberta Ballet’s pre-history: 

Alberta Ballet acquired its current name in 1966, but it was the direct successor of the former Edmonton Ballet, which itself had evolved from founder Ruth Carse’s small amateur troupe, Dance Interlude.

“If the company took a more liberal approach to history,” the journalist wrote, “it could be celebrating its 50th birthday.”

Now at 50, we see that the origin story of Alberta Ballet doesn’t begin in 1966.  Nor does it begin with Ruth Carse directing a small amateur troupe, Dance Interlude, in the 1950s.

The origin story that culminates in the founding of Alberta Ballet begins in 1933.

In 1933, Ruth Carse was 18 years old, and she held a dance class - ballet, tap and acrobatics - in the basement of her family home.

Muriel Taylor was a 12 year old neighbor who lived across the back lane.  She was passionate about dance and heard from a friend about the young dance teacher nearby. 

One afternoon, in 1933, Muriel walked across the alley to see what Ruth’s class was all about.  The afternoon ignited in Muriel a love for ballet.  She signed up to join the class in the basement of the Carse home.

It set in motion a lifelong friendship between Ruth and Muriel, a friendship built on a shared passion for dance. 

Into the 1940s, opportunities to train and work as a dancer in Edmonton were limited.  Muriel and Ruth found themselves travelling different paths to advance their ballet training. 

Ruth danced with the Volkoff Canadian Ballet Company in Toronto, went to New York where she was part of the famed corps de ballet of the Radio City Music Hall. She went on to take teacher training at The Royal Academy of Dancing in London, England. 

Muriel attended the University of Alberta where she was Director of the University Ballet Club, performing and choreographing for their presentations.  Muriel also took dance classes in Los Angeles and Toronto and attended the B.C. School of Dancing in Vancouver where she was invited to join their staff and performing group

Muriel returned to Edmonton in 1948.  There, she realized her childhood dream by opening her own ballet studio, the Muriel Taylor School of Dancing. 

The school flourished in its early years.  By 1954, over 400 students were enrolled, and Muriel, pregnant with her third child, realised she needed additional help.

That same year, Ruth suffered a foot injury after rehearsing a Brisé Volé  in a London studio with an uneven floor. Unable to continue performing, she sought out teaching opportunities. 

Muriel approached her childhood friend and first teacher with a proposal: a paid position with Muriel’s teaching staff.  Ruth left London to return to Edmonton.

The two women would mount a number of productions as the Muriel Taylor School of Dancing throughout the 1950s and established a group for advanced students called Dance Interlude.

In 1958 Ruth and Muriel choreographed and staged a tap and ballet performance at the new Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.  The dancers’ reputation and abilities increased and the School was soon being asked to provide dancers for more elaborate productions, including the Edmonton Light Opera.

In 1960, Dance Interlude became the Edmonton Ballet.  Six years later, with the support of the provincial government, Muriel and Ruth’s story lands at 1966, when they oversaw the expansion of the organization’s mandate to form the Alberta Ballet Company.

At this 50th milestone, we have much to celebrate as we look back on Alberta Ballet’s history of beautiful performance. 

But an anniversary year also entices us to wonder about an organization’s earliest beginnings.  About prologue.  About ideas that begin with dreams.

Where did Alberta Ballet originate? 

You could say it began with a moment many of us can recall from childhood: exiting our back gate and crossing an alley to dream big with a neighbourhood friend.

Did you know: The Provincial Archives of Alberta has developed an exhibit, “Alberta Ballet & the Documentation of Performance,” to share and celebrate 50 years of Alberta Ballet.  This exhibit will be open to the public from Sept 1 to Dec 17.  More details here: http://provincialarchives.alberta.ca/whats-new/exhibits/Default.aspx​​​



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