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.
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
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
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.