History of the Spanish Dance Society
THE SPANISH DANCE SOCIETY WAS FOUNDED IN SOUTH AFRICA IN 1965
BY THE LATE MERCEDES MOLINA AND DAME RHODA RIVKIND.
At the suggestion of the late Ivy Conmee, a senior examiner of the Royal Academy of Dance, a syllabus was created for examining Spanish dance. Conmee gave generously of her time, showing how to formulate the examinations and how to conduct them. Thus they were professional from the start.
Spanish dance was, for the first time ever, codified into a teaching method, graded according to age and ability. Later the founders and senior co-founders were honoured for their preservation and presentation of Spanish dance by King Juan Carlos I and King Felipe VI.
Dir. Dulcie Howes of the University of Cape Town Ballet, UCT, school and company, realised the worth of this syllabus and immediately incorporated it into the school’s curriculum. Other universities, colleges, arts and ballet schools followed, with much success, and the method spread across five continents.
Howes graciously funded the printing of the syllabus, theory, music books etc., the recording of the music on cassettes, with João dos Santos playing his specially transcribed music.
Marina Keet, a teacher at the school was to supervise. It enabled the examinations to start immediately.
The drawings of arm and feet positions, costumes and postures of the dances in each junior examination were by Enrique Breytenbach.
Later Senior Syllabus costumes by William Pucilowsky, were exact diagrams for copying for performances. The arm positions in the Aragon Map, was by Heather Magoon. The map of Spain shows the old cultural regions.
In Spain, the teachers were able to abandon the old method of teaching only dance after dance. They expressed their gratitude by saying, “It has changed our lives.”
The syllabus was created by founding members, the late Mercedes Molina and Dame Rhoda Rivkind, joined by Madame Gitanilla of Johannesburg, Deanna Blacher of Cape Town and Theo Dantes and Bernard Lyle of Durban.
On their return from Spain, Dame Marina Keet and Sir Geoffrey Neiman joined the original 6 people, and Sir Geoffrey Neiman later set the male syllabus.
Dame Marina Keet set all the existing Escuela Bolera Exercises as well as many of the traditional Bolero dances. She also wrote our whole grade syllabus and together with Sir Geoffrey Neiman and Dame Rhoda Rivkind they compiled all the theory books for the Junior Syllabus.
At the end of the first year, Dame Mavis Becker joined the Society and over the next few years was responsible for setting many of the Flamenco exercises and dances for the Major flamenco syllabus.
Fiona Rodel from Port Elizabeth (previously from Durban) and Bernice Lloyd from Johannesburg also joined the Society in the first year. From Cape Town Cynthia Rowe joined and contributed from her studies with Mercedes y Albano in Madrid.
During the subsequent years, on her return from Spain, Dame Hazel Acosta joined the Society and contributed much to the syllabus.
The Founders had all studied with reputable Spanish teachers and/or performed with well-known Spanish dance companies. They based the exercises and dances on what they had learned from these teachers, and so set the standards required to join a Spanish Dance Company.
The technique is broken down into castanet playing, steps, footwork, arm movements and various different types of turns. This is taught progressively in a series of seven graded junior, and three senior levels, each with an examination culminating in the presentation of dances in regional, classical, neo-classical (Danza Estilizada) or flamenco styles.
There is also a pure flamenco syllabus if the students wishes to study that exclusively. Most students follow the syllabi.
The ensuing three examinations for training a teacher comprise of knowledge of all the prior syllabus work, the theory and historical background, as well as an understanding of the music and palos (Flamenco rhythms).
IDBI (INSTRUCTOR DE BAILE I) covers all levels from Preparacion to Quinto Año (QA)
IDBII (INSTRUCTOR DE BAILE II) covers the syllabus of PAE (Primer Año Estudiante) and SAE (Segundo Año Estudiante).
PDB (PROFESOR DE BAILE) The final examination for teachers covers the Advanced syllabus (Tercer Año Estudiante) TAE and also includes the Pericet Escuela Bolera syllabus as codified by Dame Marina Keet in her classes with Eloy Pericet in Madrid.
Syllabus books, theory, recorded music and DVD’s are available to accompany the syllabus.
The Society has spread worldwide, and at present is taught in UK, Spain, Malta, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Thailand, South Africa and the USA.