Toronto Dance Teachers: 1825-1925


100 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-929003-25-X
DDC 792.8'07'0713541




Reviewed by Susan Free

Susan Free teaches movement in the drama program at the University of


Mary Jane Warner has combed diaries, newspapers, theatrical programs,
and obscure sources of every description to piece together a history of
social and theatrical dance training in Toronto. The period prior to the
establishment of the big three Canadian ballet companies has never
before been systematically considered as a formative part of Toronto’s
dance infrastructure. This book helps to fill that gap in our cultural

Warner focuses on a few tenacious individuals who initiated
Torontonians into a range of civilizing physical arts: from etiquette to
polka, physical culture to ballet. It is interesting to see how the
confluence of European cultures in Toronto in the early part of the
century was manifested in the availability of a range of culturally
diverse dance teachers and techniques. Warner sketches out the lives of
these teachers and the development of their schools, fills in some
social context, and illustrates her text from period documents. Students
of dance history may be surprised to learn that Augustin Noverre,
grandnephew of the great Jean-Georges Noverre, set up a school in
Toronto. Also of note are the chapters on the physical culturists, whose
influence lingers in the modern dance and body therapies today.

Although the reader is given some sense of the dancing itself, Warner
sticks mainly to the nuts and bolts of people, places, and things. Her
emphasis on concrete details has little of the poetry of dance, but
provides a factual structure from which future historians can work. For
anyone embarking on a study of early social and theatrical dance in
Toronto, this book does much of the initial legwork, and helps put the
later development of the big dance companies into historical context.
Students of early 20th-century social history would also find useful
material here.


Warner, Mary Jane., “Toronto Dance Teachers: 1825-1925,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,