Hylda Davies was a dancer, choreographer and teacher heralded for her pioneering efforts in cultivating dance culture in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the 1920s and ’30s. Born in Folkestone, England, Davies immigrated to Halifax in 1922. She opened her dance school after befriending Joy Redden whose daughter Marguerite had been advised to study dance as a remedy for the childhood bone disease called rickets. From this friendship, the Madame Hylda School of Dance was formed, and Marguerite became Davies’ first pupil. Classes consisted of ballet taught by Hylda and tap dance taught by her sister Katherine. The school’s biannual recitals also helped to establish Mme. Hylda as a popular dancer and choreographer.
In 1926, Mme. Hylda and her students were invited by the theatre manager to begin holding live prologues before the movies at Halifax’s Majestic Theatre on Barrington Street. They participated in these prologues for approximately fifteen years, well into the 1930s when the Majestic was replaced by the Capitol Theatre. Davies and her dancers also participated in multiple benefit performances, including a grand Lawn Fête that was held in the Public Gardens on July 25, 1927. A newspaper reported the following day that 4000 people had been in attendance and they raised $942 for Camp Sunshine, a fresh air farm. Another Lawn Fête was held at the Public Gardens in 1928. That same year, Pathé News filmed Mme. Hylda and her dancers at Cow Bay, and this footage was likely widely shared in a weekly dose of filmed news at movie theatres – a popular practice before the arrival of television.
Although Davies had many dedicated pupils, including Marial Mosher, Ruth (Tully) Bell-Davison and Betty Davison, several left by the end of the 1930s, and during WWII Davies found herself choreographing primarily for the troops stationed in Halifax.
After closing her studio in 1943, Davies left Halifax with her husband and family for the Bay of Fundy and then Moncton, New Brunswick. When her husband retired, they settled in Kelowna, British Columbia, where she died in 1988. In recognition of over twenty-five years of bringing dance to Nova Scotia, Mme. Hylda was inducted into Dance Collection Danse’s ENCORE! ENCORE! Dance Hall of Fame in 1986.
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