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CYNTHIA BARRETT - BIOGRAPHY

Cynthia Barrett was a key part of the early modern dance scene in Toronto in the 1940's. After studies with Saida Gerrard, she made her first trip to study dance in the United States in 1938 and continued to travel periodically to New York and Bennington College in the 1940's to train with Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Benjamin Zemach and Louis Horst. In 1943 she earned a role in the Broadway musical One Touch of Venus choreographed by Agnes de Mille. With Broadway on her resume, she became of great interest to the local media when she resettled in Toronto and her 1946 show received considerable attention from the press. Throughout the 1940's, Barrett taught modern dance for various organizations including the Workers Educational Association, Young Men's Hebrew Association, United Jewish People's Order (UJPO) and the Cynthia Barrett School of Dance. During this time she staged several performances through the modern dance groups she had established at these various organizations. She received acclaim for her work Song of David (1949) at the Second Canadian Ballet Festival performed by the Neo Dance Theatre, a group sponsored by the UJPO. In the 1950s she worked primarily as a choreographer on variety television series produced by the CBC; however, she returned to stage work in the mid-1960s choreographing pieces for Chanukah festivals using a group of dancers who would become founding members of the Toronto Dance Theatre. Her final choreography was Heritage (1967) for the debut performance of Patricia Beatty's New Dance Group of Canada; a year later, Beatty joined David Earle and Peter Randazzo to form the Toronto Dance Theatre.

CONTENTS

  • photocopies of photographs, newspaper clippings, playbills, costume designs, correspondence, original photographs.
Notable
  • photocopy of Cynthia Barrett brochure c. 1946
  • photocopy of George Hurst's hand-written score for The Swallow Book (1946)
  • photocopies of correspondence with ethnomusicologist Marius Barbeau,
  • Diamond Jenness, Richard Finnie and others regarding her search for materials on "Eskimo" dances
  • photocopy of magazine article: Cynthia Barrett, "Modern Dance in Adult Education", Food for Thought, April 1944, Vol. 6, No. 7. Provides information on Barrett's philosophical approaches to dance education and descriptions of exercises done in her composition classes.
  • photocopy of magazine article: Kay Rex, "Cynthia Barrett", Canadian Home Journal, May 1947. A useful profile written when Barrett was 24 years old, following her time in New York and after her first major Toronto performance, provides some of her philosophy regarding children and dance and the social benefits of dance.
  • photocopy of unidentified newspaper clipping: "Friends Hauled to Camps ‘For Fun' – He Hates Nazis". Provides biographical material on Emil Gartner, director of Toronto Jewish Folk Choir.
  • photocopies of Avrom's costume designs for Song of David performed at the 1949 Canadian Ballet Festival in Toronto
  • photocopy of playbill for Chanukah Festival for Israel, Sunday, December 16, 1965, probably one of the earliest times that David Earle, Patricia Beatty, Donald Himes, Susan Macpherson, Amelia Itcush and Ricardo Albreut performed in public together
  • photocopy of playbill for debut performance of Patricia Beatty's New Dance Group of Canada, December 9, 1967
  • photocopies of photographs of the New Dance Group of Canada
  • magazine article: Pat Kaiser, "Cynthia Barrett: Forgotten Trailblazer of Modern Dance in Canada", Performing Arts & Entertainment in Canada, Winter 1991. (For the full unpublished version of Kaiser's article, please refer to the Pat Kaiser Portfolio.)

 

Photos: Top left - Cynthia Barrett prepares for Song of David, 1949; Below Top Left - Cynthia Barrett performs Canadiana, 1946 / Photo: Page Toles, Toronto

CROSS REFERENCES

Portfolios:
  • Nancy Lima Dent, Saida Gerrard, Pat Kaise
Oral History:
  • Cynthia Barrett (2 hours 15 minutes, interview conducted by Sonja Barton)
Film:
  • Ballet Festival produced by Guy Glover, 1949, National Film Board of Canada. (Includes brief section of Song of David (1949).)
Books:

WORKS:

  • Mother of the Maccabees (date unknown)
  • Ballad for Americans (1941), Earl Robinson, John Latouche, Paul Robeson
  • Stages in Adolescence (1941), Geraldine Shuster
  • Three Jazz Preludes (1941), George Gershwin
  • Pavane pour un enfant défunte (1941), Maurice Ravel
  • "The People, Yes!" (1942), recitation of Carl Sandburg's poem
  • Our Talented Daughter (1942), arranged by L. Chernos
  • Country Dance (1942), Dimitri Shostakovich
  • Canadiana (1942), arranged by Geraldine Shuster and L. Chernos
  • Child Refugee (1944), George Hurst
  • Canadiana (1946), traditional folk music c. 1600
  • Eskimo Dances (1946), based on authentic Eskimo music
  • The Swallow Book (1946), George Hurst
  • New Girl On the Street (1946), Dimitri Shostakovich
  • I'm Going to Have a Party (1946), Dimitri Shostakovich
  • Awakening (1947), George Hurst
  • Song of David (1949), Modest Mussorgsky
  • Mesiras Nefesh (1965), Gordon Kushner
  • Heritage (1967), Srul Irving Glick

POSSIBLE WORKS:

No choreographer was credited for the following works; however, they are listed in a 1944 performance by the YMHA Modern Dance Theatre directed by Cynthia Barrett.

  • Canadian Ballads of Liberty (1944)
  • Our Talented Daughter (1944), Sylvia Kamin
  • Three Studies in Jitter-Optera (1944), Robert Russell Bennett

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