11 July 2015

Rockies ... Nostalgia

Throwback nostalgia time ... travel to and from Alberta. For three summers I stayed at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Sweet times! Now the complex is called simply the Banff Centre, much expanded to include literary arts, conference facilities, and "leadership training." Today I hardly recognize the buildings and the programs ...
Postcard ca.1955
In hindsight, all the programs then were somewhat limited in scope, facilities, and the number of participants that could be accommodated. But all programs were full every year. The artists, the singers and musicians, the dancers, the actors, all thrilled to the collegiality and the highest quality of faculty instructors. A rather uninformative video about early days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmXMLZj-bjw   

When I first went in the late 1950s, my mother and two friends were signed up for an art course. The four of us crammed into her car and drove from the Lakehead to Banff. The 1,000-mile trip involved a fully packed car short on comfort and temper for people with long legs but the blurting of bad language was kept to a minimum. Our stay was a tiny rented suite in someone's house on the town outskirts, everyone uneasy with the lack of privacy, but mostly we were away all day doing lovely artistic things and absorbing a great deal of Banff. Ballet classes were in the town hall auditorium on Banff Avenue; Gweneth Lloyd introduced us to her Greek Rhythmics.

Fun during Banff's "Indian Days" to see Chief Walking Buffalo leading my mother in a dance. Once we went for tea with portraitist extraordinaire and friend Nicky de Grandmaison at his vintage log home.

Honestly, girls and boys: we really did have coloured film in those days. (Didn't we?)

Betty and Gweneth
The next time I went out west on my own. Changes had been made. There were residential chalets and a gigantic dance studio space on the side of Tunnel Mountain. Betty Farrally from my (Winnipeg) home dance school had joined the faculty. Every program presented a performance or exhibit at the end of the courses. And because we all more or less lived on top of one another, we all showed up to applaud our peers.  

So exotic it seemed, meeting all those Albertans and western Canadians! To be sure, Toronto and the east were often represented. I recall John Arab and Arlene Meadows as stars in the vocal program; Andy Dawes and Ken Perkins were there, later to found the Orford Quartet. Ken's sister Marnie was our piano accompanist for the dance classes. I had a huge crush on Marek the shy pianist, accidentally lingering outside his practice room, perfecting my knowledge of Rachmaninoff. The hills echoed joyfully with the sound of music.

Dress rehearsal, Walton's Facade Suite
In those days we seldom thought of capturing great moments with our cameras. We were kept so busy with classes because rehearsals for the grand finale performance began almost immediately. Our programs naturally featured Gweneth Lloyd choreographic works.

It's a wonder we had any time to explore. But we did manage to ride horses in the Hoodoos; we met visiting international dance stars; we climbed Sulphur Mountain. As far as we were concerned, the best attraction of the main street was the corner coffee shop where Iand a few others ‒ first encountered the seductive butterhorn. A flaky pastry, I recall, served after a quick sauté in (more) butter. The melt-in-your-mouth result was addictive. No cholesterol problems at that age!

In my last summer there, what fun rooming with my good buddy Ginny, and double-dating. How did we get time for that? Gweneth's "Finishing School" was an ironic lark because both of us were on summer reprieve from boarding school. Ginny later became a Vegas showgirl and Mary Tyler Moore's body double.

DeeDee and Virginia went on to join ballet companies in the U.K.; Dalton joined the Moulin Rouge troupe in Paris where I spotted him in the chorus a few years later so late-night drinks and catch-up were on the menu. 

Does it still hold magic for young people, this town?

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

No comments: