Dulcie Howes

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Dulcie Howes (31 December, 1908 – 19 March, 1993) was a ballet dancer, choreographer and administrator.


Dulcie Howes was born in 1908 at Little Brak River near Mossel Bay, where the family spent their summer holidays.

Her father, Justice Reed Howes, came to South Africa at the end of the Anglo Boer War. While he was the headmaster of Oudtshoorn Boys High School he married Muriel Alice Lind. After their marriage they settled in Cape Town, where Justice Howes practised as an advocate

Dulcie Howes was one of the first pupils at Herschel School in Rondebosch when it opened in 1922. She maintained her interest in the school for many years as a ballet teacher there, and also as a member of the school council. Both her daughters, Amelia and Victoria attended Herschel.

As a child she took dancing lessons with Helen Webb. These classes concentrated more on deportment and what was known then as “fancy dancing”. She later took ballet instruction from Helen White, who had studied with Cecchetti.

In 1925 Dulcie Howes saw her first professional ballet performance when Anna Pavlova’s Company toured South Africa. Possibly as a result of this she decided to travel abroad to England in 1926 to study ballet, as ballet in South Africa was then in its infancy. She spent three and a half years in England studying different aspects of dance such as pas-des deux, ballroom, mime, Spanish, Greek, tap and modern dance as well as anatomy and art. At the end of her studies in England she managed to secure a small part with Anna Pavlova’s company when they toured Europe.

When she returned to South Africa in 1930, inspired with ideas, methods and techniques, she opened a ballet school in Rondebosch, where she taught ballet, ballroom and Spanish dancing. Her school had grown from 3 pupils to 60 when Prof. William Bell, Head of the College of Music at UCT, suggested that Dulcie Howes move her school to the College of Music. This led to the founding of the UCT Ballet School in 1932.

She was the ballet mistress of a ballet school in Cape Town, known as the Cape Town Ballet Company. After the very successful opening of The Marriage of Figaro she was approached by professor William Bell to bring her ballet school under the wing of the College of Music, as the UCT Ballet School.

Contribution to South African theatre

March 1947: Sponsored by the Port Elizabeth Ballet Club, Dulcie Howes brought her Cape Town Ballet Company to the Port Elizabeth Opera House for four ballet performances. This was the first ever time a ballet company had performed in Port Elizabeth. Her accompanying dancers included ballet assistant Renee Feller and teacher Freida Smallhorne. All the other dancers were students and included Myrtle Martin an Mary-Jane Harris from East London, and Editha Mills from Queenstown.

December 1947: Sponsored by the Association of Arts, Dulcie Howes brought her Cape Town Ballet Company to King William's Town for one ballet performance and then moved to East London for three performances at the East London City Hall. Two of her accompanying students,Maurice Metliss and Renee Feller, the latter being one of the principal dancers, were from East London.

Through the recommendation of Bell, Howes also became the next Director of the Little Theatre in Cape Town.

In 1950 she became involved in setting up the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre, both as organizer and choreographer, doing St Valentine’s Night and Les Diversions the UCT Ballet Company as part of the opening production of the venue on 1-3 December 1950.

[FdV, TH]

1972 (?): Directed Eleanor Farjeon's musical fantasy The Silver Curlew and presented by the Port Elizabeth Children's Theatre at the Port Elizabeth Opera House as a fund raiser for the Port Elizabeth School Feeding Fund. Music by Clifton Parker with special arrangements by Felicia Lifson and Don Gallaway.


BC 1101 THE DULCIE HOWES PAPERS, University of Cape Town Libraries. https://www2.lib.uct.ac.za/mss/existing/Finding%20Aids/BC%201101%20Dulcie%20Howes%20Papers.htm

Saturday Post, March 29, 1947.

Saturday Post, October 4, 1947.

Donald Inskip 1972. Forty Little Years: The Story of a Theatre. Cape Town: Howard Timmins.

The Silver Curlew theatre programme, undated.

Donald Inskip 1976. The Maynardville Chronicle, 1956-1976. Epping: Printpak.

Karen Combrinck, 1997. Contents list of "The Dulcie Howes Papers", Manuscripts & Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries (donated by Victoria Cawood)[1]

Dulcie Howes: Pioneer of Ballet in South Africa. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau; 1996. ISBN 0-7981-3651-0.

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