At the start of the 20th century, the Kiora Calisthenics Club taught calisthenics and what was termed as “fancy dancing” but it wasn’t until 1932 that South Street’s Calisthenics Section grew to include a dancing section, which was won by Dorothy Gladstone – who would go on to become a pioneer dance educator and to establish the National Examination System.
In the meantime, Adeline Close opened her dance school in Grenville Street in 1924 and began a tradition of producing many wonderful dancers. One of her student’s, Nancy Waldron, would later become mother to Carole and Cheryl Oliver, both who would have a major influence on dance both locally and nationally.
In 1938, the Calisthenics and Dancing Sections became separate disciplines and by 1940 Ballarat had four dance schools and two Calisthenics clubs and continued to produce young stars including Merle Heath, winner of the Classical Ballet Solo in 1938, and Adrienne Opie (Australian Ballet), winner 1955.
In 1954, ballerina, Lija Svalbe, hid in a load of torpedoes to escape communist Latvia before settling in Ballarat where she stared her ballet school. Around 1960, the Ballarat Light Opera Company, and Lyric theatre (with Fred Fargher) commenced production, while Carole Oliver, Carol Trenfield, and Pam Waller opened their own schools. These schools gave birth to many superb dancers into the 70’s, and beyond.
In 1978, The Courier/3BA offered a sponsorship prize of $100 for the Open Classical Solo, and in the following 18 years, Ballarat dancers won the Solo 12 times.
By the 1980’s, dance and theatre saw an explosion of opportunities for young dancers through BLOC, Lyric, Begonia Festival productions and the fabulous Fred Fargher Song and Dance Shows.
The 1990s continued to see the rapid growth of dedicated dance schools in Ballarat and passion by local students and parents – all of which augers well for the future of Dancing at the South Street Competitions.
Since joining the South Street Society Board in 1984, and later as Chairperson of the Dancing Section, Dr. Tony Cole, has seen many fine dancers perform on stage and taken a keen interest in their dancing development.
Over the years, South Street has seen many of its dancers achieve fame and cross the stage internationally. Betty Pounder AM, who started dance at the age of four to cure shyness, won the section in 1937 and went on to world-wide fame as a dancer and choreographer. Other dancers include Adam Bull and Brooke Lockett, both currently with the Australian Ballet, and David Kierce who teaches at the Central School of Ballet in the UK.