The formation of the Mildura and District Ballet Guild in 1959 was the result of much ground work in the previous year and, indeed, owes much of its existence to the tenacity of one woman, Joyce, Mrs. Lester Davey. From its beginning this area has had a rich arts community. Plays, music and dance have been an ongoing part of the lives of many of its residents. Dance, in its varying forms has been an integral part of the culture.
By the 1950s there were still several teachers of what was then called ‘musical comedy dancing’. Today we would see it as a mixture of classical and modern ballet, jazz, tap, and any other form of dance expression. The only school working solely in a form of classical ballet was that run by Joseph Ambrazas and his wife, Hildegarde.
Sometime in 1958 a young student, Maria Andriske, was taken by her mother to the Borovansky Ballet School in Melbourne and there impressed Madame Cuinovas. Madame had known Joseph Ambrazas in Europe and, although associated with the stage, he was not trained as a dancer. This report sealed the end of the Ambrazas school and the search was on for ways in which to create a legitimate alternative.
Finally, through Mrs. Lester Davey, the services were obtained of a qualified young woman who had a ballet school in Broken Hill. She was to fly to Mildura once a week to take classes in St. Margaret’s Hall which had been used for ballet classes for many years. The Hall’s floor was reasonable, its space good, and pews could be turned around to make excellent barres. After several visits it was obvious that this was not a practical arrangement nor was it going to be a financial success. It was clear that there was a new and eager generation of parents and children in the district wanting to learn ballet. Perhaps this had been ignited by a recent visit and performance by Laurel Martyn’s Victorian Ballet Guild.