Early ballet in Queensland

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Students of Marjorie Hollinshed striking a pose in the production “Gymnastics”, ca. 1930. From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0001-0008

The State Library of Queensland has recently digitised a selection of images from the Marjorie Lucas Papers and Photographs.  These images, dating from the 1920s and 1930s, depict early days in the development of ballet in Queensland.

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Ballet teacher Marjorie Hollinshed. From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0001-0017

Born in Brisbane in 1905, Marjorie Hollinshed spent her teen years in Melbourne before returning to Brisbane in 1924. Despite having had only a couple of years of ballet tuition in Melbourne, Marjorie found work as assistant to the long established dance teacher Margaret St. Ledger at her school in Adelaide Street.

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Students of the Marjorie Hollinshed School of Dance, ca. 1930. From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0001-0006

In the following years Miss Hollinshead gradually took over the studio as Miss St. Ledger slowly wound down her involvement and retired.  The school then transitioned to the Marjorie Hollinshed School of Dancing.

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Girls attending the first ever Summer School of Classical Ballet to be held in Australia, organised by Marjorie Hollinshed at Scarborough, Brisbane, 1929. From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0004-0002

Marjorie was profoundly affected by the 1926 and 1929 tours of world renowned dancer Anna Pavlova and her company.  During this time she was privileged enough to receive two personal lessons from Pavlova’s partner Laurent Novikoff, which inspired her to learn all she could about classical ballet techniques and transfer this knowledge to her pupils.  The Hollinshed school then concentrated solely on classical ballet and as such was one of the first schools to abandon the old ‘fancy dancing’ style of classes.

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Anna Pavlova arriving at Central Station, Brisbane, 1926. She is flanked (left to right) by Efram Kurtz (conductor), John Tait (promoter), Walford Hayden (conductor). From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0001-0024

Among those early students who came after school for private tuition were Phyllis Danaher and Laurel Martyn, both of whom were to go on to become widely recognised ballet dancers.  In 1932, Marjorie Hollinshead retired from teaching to marry veterinary surgeon Keith Lucas, passing her studio on to Phyllis Danaher.

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Laurel Martyn, aged 14, a student of Marjorie Hollinshed, ca. 1930. From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0001-0009

Marjorie did however maintain her passion for ballet in Queensland and Australia, later publishing the books Dancers of Queensland, and In Search of Ballet in Australia.

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The Tivoli Bells, 1929. From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0003-0002

Through researching these publications she amassed a significant collection of photographs that wonderfully portray ballet in Brisbane in the early twentieth century.  It is from this collection, which also contains correspondence, manuscripts and notes, that this selection of photographs has been digitised.  Of particular note is a series of large hand-coloured photographs of Hollinshead pupils taken by Brisbane photographer Trissie Dazeley.

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Young dancer striking a pose in a Peter Pan costume, ca. 1930. From OM76-03 Marjorie Hollinshed Papers and Photographs. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg OM76-03-0001-0013

The complete selection of photographs digitised from this collection can be found on our One Search catalogue. The remainder of the collection is accessible in the John Oxley reading room at the State Library of Queensland.

R. Hillier – Original Materials Librarian, State Library of Queensland