Forty years of presenting the best in Bermuda dance
A LIFE IN DANCE
Growing up, Madame Patricia Deane-Gray, MBE, studied with various dance teachers on the Island before travelling to England to train as a professional classical dancer.
She studied at both the Legat School of Ballet in London and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, before attending the International Ballet School in Split, Yugoslavia (now Croatia).
Later she became a soloist with the National Theatre of Yugoslavia, and travelled to New York with Ballet Russe, where she performed at the Yugoslav Embassy for the United Nations. Returning to London, she obtained her teachers degree from the Federation of Russian Ballet.
Upon her return to Bermuda she taught for the Department of Education before opening and directing her Bermuda School of Russian Ballet.
Since 1958, Mme Deane-Gray has been indirectly responsible for most of the ballet performances given in Bermuda, including the Bermuda Ballet Weeks from 1959-1965, which became the forerunners of the Bermuda Festival.
She is the founder and was the director of the Bermuda Civic Ballet from 1972-2002, and danced in its first production, Devil in the Village.
She is a two-time past president of the Bermuda Ballet Association, which she cofounded with Yugoslav dancer/teacher Madame Ana Roje in 1962.
From 1977 Mme Deane-Gray has been a representative of the Society of Russian Ballet London, and is a past president of the American Society of Russian Ballet.
In 1982, she lectured and demonstrated the syllabus to students and teachers for the American Society of Russian Ballet in New England at Harvard University.
Mme Deane-Grays work as a dancer/teacher/choreographer has been formally recognised with several awards. In 1984 she was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen.
She has been honoured twice by the Bermuda Arts Council, first with its Performing Arts Founders Award, and then its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003 she was honoured by the Ministry of Education for her contributions to education of the arts.
Overseas, she has been recognised by the Society of Russian Ballet as a teacher, examiner and consultant. In 2011 she was a judge at Zagreb Theatres International Dance Competition in Croatia.
Mme Deane-Gray is the director of the Ana Roje International Ballet summer school, which this year has been held in Bermuda to coincide with the Civic Ballets 40th anniversary, in which some of the students will participate.
She is a teacher, examiner and consultant with the Legat Foundation in Croatia, and the international coordinator of the Legat summer school in Croatia.
Mme Deane-Gray has taken the Legat travelling exhibition, One Hundred Years of Croatian Ballet, to 27 different venues in Canada, the US, Russia and Austria.
If there is one name which is synonymous with ballet in Bermuda it is that of Madame Patricia Deane-Gray (or Patricia Gray as she is generally known). From the age of two to the present day she has been a passionate and dedicated proponent of the art form, both here and internationally. As the founder of the Bermuda Civic Ballet in 1972, she is particularly proud to have witnessed its success, and to share in celebrating its 40th anniversary. She tells Nancy Acton her story
Ask Madame Patricia Deane-Gray, MBE, how long she has been interested in dance, and her face lights up.
Since I was born! she exclaims.
More precisely, she recalls dancing in the garden for her grandfather as a two-year-old in a doll-sized tunic and tiny shoes, having been introduced to the art form by her first teacher, Madame Amelia Smith.
At age four she made her first public appearance on stage at Dockyard — as an accidental soloist.
I was a student of Trixie Hallawells ballet school, and I was supposed to be one of four dancers, but the other children were afraid to come on! she says.
Certainly the little girl could never have imagined that, in 2012, she would be proudly celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Bermuda Civic Ballet, which she founded in 1972.
Its mission then, as now, has been to provide opportunities for trained dancers and advanced students to perform at a semi-professional level, and to work with visiting and local choreographers.
The seeds for the evolution of the Civic, as it is popularly known, were sown in 1950 when the then-Patricia Sherwood graduated from the Bermuda High School for Girls and enrolled in the Legat School of Ballet in London, England to train as a professional classical dancer.
There, despite having taken lessons with every dance teacher the Island ever had during her formative years, as well as dancing in public performances where and whenever she could, and even teaching and coaching as a 14 year-old, the aspiring Bermudian ballerina had quite an awakening.
I soon discovered that there is dancing, and there is dancing, she says. I had had no formal training, and I hadnt got a clue. I didnt even know what an arabesque was!
Which is why, when she eventually returned to Bermuda, Mrs Deane-Gray (as she is today) opened her School of Russian Ballet — but more of that later.
Among the teachers with whom she studied at Legat in London was the Yugoslav ballerina Madame Ana Roje, a former student of Nicolas Legat who later became his assistant and protégée.
Mme Deane-Gray (as she is today) continued her studies with Mme Roje at her International Ballet School in Split, Yugoslavia, and then became a soloist with the Yugoslav National Theatre. She also travelled with her teacher and mentor to New York City with the Ballet Russe for six months, during which time she was invited to give a performance for the United Nations at the Yugoslav Embassy.
Then came a crossroads, and the decision which would ultimately lead to a lifetime of continued contributions to the world of ballet, both here and abroad.
It was a question of either taking up a contract with the Yugoslav National Theatre, or coming home to get married to Donald (Deane-Gray), who had been waiting around for about seven years as it was, his widow remembers.
Taking the long-term view, the Bermudian ballerina opted in favour of marriage and a family, and returned to the Island also determined to help prepare local dancers for a professional career, if that was their goal.
Thus it was that in 1955, Patricia Deane-Gray opened the Russian School of Ballet.
When I left Bermuda I was totally unprepared, and I didnt want any other child born here who wanted to dance to be unprepared for a professional career, if that was their goal, she says of the move.
Meanwhile, the Jackson School of Dance and the Somerset School of Dance had opened, which provided students with a general dance education.
Until 1958, when Mme Roje first came to the Island at the behest of her former student to present Act II of Swan Lake at the Colonial Opera House, Bermuda had never enjoyed a visiting dance company, nor local dance students exposure to that level of inspiration.
Mme Deane-Gray was partnered by Myles Marsden, and the performance included a local corps de ballet.
Sufficiently impressed, Mme Roje returned in 1959 to stage the ballet Giselle at the Outdoor Theatre in Prospect as part of Bermudas 350th anniversary celebrations.
It was a great success, and marked the first time locally trained Bermudian dancers had been given an opportunity to perform at Company level.
Again with Mme Rojes assistance, the Bermuda Ballet Association was formed in 1962. The charitable organisations purpose was to educate and promote the art of classical ballet through scholarships, lectures and the showing of films.
From 1961-64, many excellent dancers, companies and concert groups came here to perform at Mme Rojes invitation, and incorporated locally trained dancers into their Ballet Week productions.
After 1964, Ballet Week proved to be the forerunner of the Bermuda Festival, Mme Deane-Gray notes.
From 1964-1972, more and more small professional companies began to perform here, many of them presented by the Ballet Association — but without the inclusion of local dancers.
The Ballet Association brought in package deals because they were more economical, so local dancers didnt have any media for performing from 1964-1972.
Children were training, but if they didnt have a school show, there was no alternative for them to perform publicly, so that was my motivation for forming the Bermuda Civic Ballet.
The Bermuda Arts Council, which was formed in the late 1960s, presented its first Summer Festival in 1970, and concurred with the exclusion of local dancers.
So, with the encouragement of Mme Roje, and the enthusiastic support of such community leaders as Sir John Swan, Mrs V ODonnell King, Mr Reginald Ming, Sir Henry Tucker, Dame Marjorie Bean, Mrs Elspeth Gibson and Sir Gilbert Cooper, Mme Deane-Gray founded the Bermuda Civic Ballet in 1972. It was the Islands first dance theatre.
The first production, Devil in the Village, choreographed by Mme Rojes husband Oskar Harmos, took place at the Rosebank Theatre and featured a cast of approximately 140 Bermuda performers, many of whom would later become prominent dancers.
In 1978, the Civic became the first local ballet company to attend the International Youth Festival in Aberdeen, Scotland, and to dance abroad — an invitation which was repeated in 1981.
Over the past 40 years, the Civic has played an integral role in developing the experience, performance and professional success of many outstanding local dancers.
Among the women were Moira Stott, Verniece Benjamin, Alison Masters, Sophia Cannonier, Coral Patterson, Alexandra Duzevic, and Katina Woodley; and among the men the late Robert Simmons, Perry Trott, Michael Ebbin, Lloyd Smith and Llewellyn Basden.
More recently, James Waddell and Jelani Veney are on track to achieve great things in their future.
Local choreographers have also shone in the Civics light, perhaps none more than Coral Patterson Waddell, who now directs the summer workshops and productions, which often include her own choreography.
From the success of the Civics initial production, subsequent productions and workshop performances staged at various venues around the Island, including Government House, the Botanical Gardens and Fort St Catherine, have become a popular annual cultural event.
Next weeks 40th anniversary production of the full-length ballet, Romeo and Juliet, at Fort Hamilton promises to be very special, and Mme Deane-Gray is justifiably proud of the Civics long history and accomplishments.
But she is also a realist. Like every other charity, of which this ballet organisation is now an international one, the bottom line is always a concern going forward.
We raise funds from ticket sales and community support, but right now the pickings are thin, so we were scrambling to find patrons to produce this years show.
However, now that we are an international charity I hope work will be done on a regular basis to make the Civic succeed, its founder says.
Romeo and Juliet will be performed at Fort Hamilton from August 22 to 25. Curtain time is 8.30pm.. Tickets (adults $45, seniors $35, students 16 and under $15, and a special combined dinner at Taste plus performance $150) are available from Premier Tickets (telephone 278-1500) or its website www.ptixbm. They are also being sold at the Liberty Theatre, the Clocktower Mall in Dockyard, and City Hall Box Office in Hamilton from Monday to Friday between 12 noon and 2pm.
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