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Notes from the Past: Laughter is the Best Remedy

On January 9, 1937 the Winnipeg Free Press carried two articles in its Music section about upcoming performances in the city. One was about Jascha Heifitz, the famed violinist, who was already a favourite of Winnipeg audiences from previous visits, and the other about Trudi Schoop and Her Comic Ballet. Perhaps surprisingly, it was not Heifitz but Schoop and her company who had been invited by the Women’s Musical Club.

Born in Zurich, Schoop had studied classical ballet in Vienna but found the poses too restricting for the freedom of movement she wished to express. She went on to study at the Isadora Duncan School of Dancing where she perfected her technique and experimented with new ways to use dance. She founded her company in 1929, and toured in Europe and the United States in the 1930s to much acclaim. So expressive was the use of her hands that they were insured for $300,000. She is quoted as saying, “My feet they are not so important.”

Schoop and her dancers had a reputation for excelling in the art of pantomime. “Strictly speaking Trudi Schoop and her comic ballet are neither pure ballet, nor straight drama but a combination of both. With an ensemble of twenty-two actor-dancers and original music as accompaniment they unfold in a series of scenes the whole design of tragi-comedy which underlines the daily life of all human beings.” “Spectators of Trudi Schoop and her comic ballet won’t have to indulge in any course of ballet history or musical appreciation in order to thoroughly enjoy her performance. The leaps and arabesques, which require rigid technical training ..... are just a part of the impish, vigorous and frequently rowdy humour of the pantomimes she presents.”

The reputation of this troupe must have been widely known. Originally, an afternoon performance for WMC members only had been planned, but so many requests were received from the public that WMC arranged for an evening performance. Under the headline “Trudi Schoop’s Company Did Old Winnipeg Good”, a reviewer in the Free Press expressed the opinion that such entertainment was exactly what Winnipeg citizens needed after enduring years of the depression, and that “if Miss Schoop and her dancers were to come here often, this city would hardly know itself.” As unusual as the choice of performers may seem, the WMC had quite clearly understood the mood of the time.

Mary Lynn Duckworth, WMC Chair of Archives June 2022

Sources: Winnipeg Free Press 1936-1937


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