The portfolio of dancer, ballet mistress and teacher Evelyn Geary reflects a dancer's life during the height of vaudevillian theatre in Toronto. The days were long, the work hard, and there was no protection for the rights of the artists, but the pay made up for it. Salaries were higher than those offered by the legitimate theatres and for dancers, particularly for women, vaudeville offered financial freedom in addition to a job one loved. At the height of her vaudeville career, Geary earned more than her father.
Geary began dance lessons in 1918 at age nine with Toronto teacher Samuel Titchener Smith. Her first paid performance came four years later, dancing a ballet in an opera presented by the Defoe Grand Opera Company. Geary continued school as well as dancing, making herself a hot commodity with her skill at dancing en pointe in addition to the usual national, fancy, skirt, and partnered dances. In the mid-1920s, Geary toured with Captain M.W. Plunkett, founder of the famed Dumbells company. The Plunkett tour of 1925 began at the end of November and ran until the following April. The sixteen-year-old Geary was signed on as a specialty dancer performing toe and acrobatic dances. With the help of a booking agent, Geary also performed in vaudeville theatres across Canada and the United States including New York's Roxy Theatre. At the Roxy, dancers worked seven days a week performing shows in repertory – while one show was performed over the course of the week, the next week's show was being rehearsed. On weekdays there were four shows per day, with five per day on weekends and holidays. The first performance of the day was followed by a rehearsal for the next week's show, the second performance was followed by a break, the third performance was followed by more rehearsal, and the day concluded with a fourth performance. In the late 1920s, Geary began working steadily at Toronto's Uptown Theatre, which had a similar routine to the Roxy - four performances per day with rehearsals between for the next week's show. The workday usually began at 10:00 a.m. and the last show started at 10:30 p.m. although, in contrast to the Roxy, Sundays were a free day. Geary became a solo dancer and ballet mistress while working at the Uptown and worked alongside Russian émigré Boris Volkoff during his first years in Toronto. When the stock market crashed in 1929, live theatre was significantly affected. People had less money for entertainment, so movies were no longer preceded by live acts. Dancers either scrounged for work or left the business. Geary mixed her sporadic performing jobs with teaching work for Boris Volkoff. Like many women of her generation, her career ended when she married, in 1938.
DOWNLOAD AND SHARE
If you want a quick run-down of what it is we do, please feel free to download our brochure. 2016 marks DCD's 30th year at the vanguard of Canada's dance story. Perfect reading for your next off-line moment. (READ MORE)
TOURS AND TALKS
Whether you are public or private, big or small, a school or studio, on a fixed or flexible budget – DCD offers a wide range of programs for all ages. (READ MORE)
A FRIEND OF DCD
Our monthly For the Record e-newsletter and annual DCD Magazine are free! Simply fill out the form and be added to our mailing list. Opt in to receive special event and announcement notices as well. (READ MORE)
Dance Collection Danse would like to acknowledge that the land on which we work is the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Métis, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. It has been a site of human activity, including dance, for at least 15,000 years and we are grateful to all the caretakers, both recorded and unrecorded, of this land and of Turtle Island. Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and dance in the community, on this territory.