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Miss Zelia Raye

Zelia Raye was the founder and creator of the Modern Theatre Dance Branch. She was a warm, generous and unique personality and, despite absences abroad, her influence was immense. She was a dynamic little figure with American overtones and a persistent demand to refute the 'shoddy' and work only for what we believe in.

She had an exploring and acquisitive mind, was an avid reader and interested in the history of all forms of art. Her ability to see Modern Theatre Dance as 'Quality of Movement' made her a legend.

Her creed was that every movement should have meaning and purpose. She always insisted that the expressive feeling of dance was indispensably connected with rhythm and her unique analysis and development of this subject not only forms one of the most important aspects in the Modern work, but also inspired a technical and rhythmical approach to Tap.

This same foundation was a strong factor in helping to create a syllabus that could be developed from beginners to advanced.

She had a fertile mind and quite extraordinary intuition, but never quite came to terms with the patience and understanding required to be a great teacher, so that one had to catch the pearls of wisdom that literally fell like rain at any moment of the day and apply them to a more technical basis, in order to harness the brilliance that was Zelia.

Her theatre experience was as a dancer and choreographer in the very early musicals, but a long spell working in America and especially her contact with Doris Humphreys completely changed her outlook.

In 1927 the Dancing Times published an article by Miss Raye entitled 'Limbering and Stretching'. As a result, the ISTD invited her to give a lesson at that year's Congress. This stimulated a great deal of interest among members and Cyril Beaumont persuaded Miss Raye to write 'Rational Limbering', which was published in 1929.

In 1932 the Council agreed that a Stage Branch should be formed and Zelia Raye was asked to create a syllabus and form a Committee. Mr Jack Hulbert gave his support to the project and was made Hon. Vice President and the committee consisted of Italia Conti, Mollie Suffield and Joan Davies.

Zelia Raye herself remained Chairman until 1958 when she retired to live in Spain. She never lost interest in the many developments of the work, and her faith and encouragement constantly inspired the small but brilliant group who strove so faithfully to propogate her work.

 

 

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