Obituary: Gweneth Lloyd

Gweneth Lloyd, ballet director, born Eccles Lancashire 1901, died Kelowna British Columbia 1 January 1993.

MOST of Canada's pioneers of the dance have been migrants from England. One of the first of these was a young lady from Lancashire who settled in Winnipeg.

Gweneth Lloyd was born in Eccles in 1901. She studied dancing and natural movement at the Liverpool Physical Training College, then moved on to the Ginner- Mawer School of Dance and Drama in London, where she acquired a knowledge of Greek dancing and, from Margaret Craske, the classical technique.

Gweneth Lloyd was ambitious with an unquenchable energy. She was aware that she had a talent for organising, but she could make little headway in her native land. As middle age approached and with a European war looming, she decided it was time to make a move. In 1938 with her pupil and lifelong friend Betty Farrally she transplanted herself to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she set up her Canadian School of Ballet. She never looked back

She found herself in the grainbelt. Life was rugged but there were no restrictions. Culture was scarce but there was music, the indigenous teachers of dance were tappers and musical comedy primitives. She had to overcome a certain prejudice but the field was open. Lloyd had visions of creating a great Canadian ballet; within a year she had a flourishing school, and from this she established the first professional ballet company in Canada. There was no opposition from rivals.

Lloyd was a creative artist and a prolific choreographer. Between 1939 and 1958 she wrote more than 50 ballets using a great variety of styles and subjects. Among her outstanding choreographies were the Wise Virgins, Finishing School, a comedy western The Shooting of Dan McGrue, and The Shadow of the Prairie. The latter ballet was made into a film by the National Film Board of Canada.

The company grew and prospered. She imported male dancers from abroad. She delegated responsibilities and was a very able director. Perhaps her greatest honour was in 1951 when a Royal Command Performance was given for the visit of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip - and from this followed a Royal Charter, which gave her company the distinction of being the only Royal Ballet in the Commonwealth.

She fed upon success opening branch schools in many areas and afer 20 years had reached her pinnacle. It must have been a considerable shock when the Board of Directors she had appointed to safeguard the company, calmly gave her the sack. They considered it time to bring in a new young artistic director. Undoubtedly she had her problems with the Board and their lack of understanding of her achievements. There had been an occasion in 1951 when the New York impresario Sol Hurok offered the company a tour of the States and the Board turned it down considering the offer 'financially insufficient'.

Lloyd did not fight with the Board. When she heard their decision she was off at a trot to the next assignment. Her replacement, Ruthana Boris, a Russian ballerina from the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, lasted only two years in the driving seat, after which one of her leading male dancers, Arnold Spohr, was appointed and he was able to hold the reins for several decades, guiding the company to international fame and success.

Meanwhile, Lloyd established her second Canadian School of Ballet, in Toronto; but by this time a new Canadian ballet had been created in the city by Celia Franca from the Royal Ballet in London. Gweneth left her disciples and moved on, settling in the Okanagan Valley. She developed a chain of schools from north to south throughout the province, while living in Kelowna, British Columbia.

From 1948 to 1967 she was Ballet Director of the dance division of the Banff School of Fine Arts. The Banff summer school of ballet prospered over the years becoming one of the most prestigous seminars that attracted leading teachers from abroad.

Joy Camden, a leading Legat teacher, who worked with Gweneth during the Fifties as teacher-repetiteur to her company told me that: 'Gweneth was a very creative artist and an excellent teacher and a charming person beloved by all who worked with her.'

In 1968 Lloyd received the Officer Order of Canada and lived long enough to see her work mature and expand. Some of her dancers received international recognition. Evelyn Hart, one of the leading ballerinas in today's company, won a gold medal in Varna in 1980.

Gweneth Lloyd, truly pioneered ballet on the prairies and implanted a tradition.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor