The Dreams that Came Before Alberta Ballet


Alberta Ballet Founder Ruth Carse grew up in Alberta and, by the 1950s, was dancing with the Academy of Ballet in London. Have you ever wondered what happened in 1954 that drew her back to her roots in Alberta to teach at the Muriel Taylor School of Dancing? 

Read on for the answer!

Alberta Ballet has an enchanting pre-history.  Its story begins earlier than its founding in 1966. And it stretches back even before Ruth Carse was directing Dance Interlude in the 1950s. The origin story that culminates in the founding of Alberta Ballet begins in 1933 Edmonton when Ruth Carse was 18 years old, teaching dance - ballet, tap and acrobatics - in the basement of the Carse family home and Muriel Taylor was a 12 year old neighbour who lived across the back lane.

Muriel heard about the nearby class and decided to try it out.  That first class with Ruth ignited in Muriel a love for ballet. It also set in motion a lifelong friendship between Ruth and Muriel, a friendship built on a shared passion for dance. 

When World War II broke out, the political and economic climate was hard on the performing arts community. Dance schools closed and employment opportunities were limited.  Muriel and Ruth found themselves traveling different paths to advance their ballet training. 

Ruth studied in New York and danced with the National Ballet of Canada before going on to train at the Academy of Ballet in London, England. Muriel attended the University of Alberta where she was Director of the University Ballet Club.  She went on to take dance classes in Los Angeles and Toronto and attended Vancouver's B.C. School of Dancing where she was invited to join both their staff and performing group.

Muriel returned to Edmonton in 1948.  There, she realized her childhood dream by opening her own ballet studio, the Muriel Taylor School of Dancing.  The school flourished in its early years.  By 1954, over 400 students were enrolled, and Muriel, pregnant with her third child, realised she needed additional help. That same year, Ruth suffered an injury and was unable to perform.  She was considering teaching as a next career move.

Muriel approached her childhood friend and first dance teacher with a proposal: a teaching position at her school.  Ruth chose to leave London and accept the position at Muriel's school. Together, the women created a number of productions as the Muriel Taylor School of Dancing throughout the 1950s. They also mentored a group of advanced students in a special performance class called Dance Interlude.

By 1958 Ruth and Muriel were choreographing and staging tap and ballet performances at the newly constructed Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.  The group's talent and reputation became widely known, and the School was soon being asked to provide dancers for more elaborate productions, including the Edmonton Light Opera.

In 1960, with support from the provincial government, Dance Interlude became the Edmonton Ballet. Six years later, the story lands at 1966, when Muriel and Ruth oversaw the expansion of the organization’s mandate to form the Alberta Ballet Company.

Alberta Ballet's founders had vision and determination, and today, their dream continues: an art form born in the castles of France flourishes in the prairies of Alberta.  But it all began with a feeling many of us treasure from our childhood: exiting our back gate and crossing an alley to dream big with a neighbourhood friend.

Lauren McDole