How did the Village Green start? How did we get the name? Who were David Williams and John Trevenen? If you have ever wondered about these questions read on.
David Williams was one of the founders of The Royal Scottish Country Dancers (RSCDSS) in Winnipeg. He was involved with various cultural and arts groups and at one time was general manager of the Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers. He was also a gifted publicist. He went to Pinewoods Dance Camps in the early 1970’s. How he heard of the camp we don’t know but we do know he thoroughly enjoyed that week and came back to Winnipeg encouraging others to go. John Trevenen was a school teacher by day and a dancer by night. He was a Scottish dancer and involved in the development of MIFDA. He headed to Pinewoods and discovered the joy of Morris and English Country Dancing.
In 1974 a Folkways concert featured the British Isles. John gathered together friends to learn and perform Morris and Country dances. Among those dancers were Elizabeth and Helmut Goossen, Robin and Mike Lynch, Betty and John Trevenen, and David Williams. Dances included Black Nag and Shrewsbury Lasses. The Morris dances were Highland Mary and the 29th of May. For the next few years English dancing happened on a casual basis. When the group were practicing at a community club Jack Scriven made the comment that they were dancing on the village green. The group had a name! In the fall of 1976 regular classes began above the Grain Exchange in the Contemporary Dancers studio. That Christmas a group performed with the Winnipeg Symphony in the Christmas Fantasy Show. The music was played at warp speed and the dancers flew. The dancers were: Jo Anning and Peter Barnes, Elizabeth and Helmut Goossen, Robin and Mike Lynch, Betty and John Trevenen, Terry Gooch and David Williams.
By the late 70’s the group was meeting Monday evening at Crescent Fort Rouge Church. The Morris men met at 6:30 and the country dancers started at 8. John was the primary teacher. English dancing in those days was done with a Scottish feel with the dancing up done very precisely. Performances continued to be an important part of the group’s activity with dancing at Old Market Square and other venues. In 1977 the Morris and Country dancers performed at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. This was the first of 4 appearances at that festival. In the spring of 1978 David Williams presented his thesis at the History Interest Group. What a change to the usual presentations. A group of dancers illustrated his points. David wrote the original constitution and in 1978 Mike Lynch became the first president. The women’s Morris team started. Some of the members were Tannis Chefurka, Peggy Emmonds, Elizabeth Goossen, and Sue Stanton.
In 1980 our numbers were seriously low and we decided to try an open social. Every member was given invitations and urged to bring at least 3 friends. John was invited to teach at a weekend in another city. Our delight in this honour was soon overshadowed by the realization that our event was on the same weekend. Elizabeth jumped into the breached and called the dances. This was her first experience teaching dance! We soon discovered what a gifted teacher she was. The fall social attracted 40 people and the January one 90!! The group was rejuvenated. In the spring of 1981 we had our first weekend workshop. Pat Talbot came from Chicago. What a weekend! As a gift Elizabeth wrote the Canadian Trilogy. These were her first dances and are still among my favourites.
The early 80’s saw members of the group travel to Minneapolis and Mendocino. The music at these events was breath-taking. How we longed for a band here in Winnipeg. Elizabeth Goossen, Sherman Himelblau, and Ron Harris met to play a little. Roman Soble joined them and soon we had live music. Out of this grew the Fine Companions. In the early 80’s John Trevenen, Robin Lynch, Elizabeth Goossen, Sue Stanton, and Geri Sweet taught. The tradition of Balls started and our 10th Anniversary was a wonderful event at the Fort Garry Hotel.
We continue to honor John Trevenen and all the others who started The Village Green Dancers. One of John’s dreams was to have dance evenings where we would enjoy both English and Scottish dances and help the less fortunate in our community by donating proceeds to Winnipeg Harvest. We continue this tradition and often dance to the ‘golden oldies’ from the early years.
How fortunate we are to be a part of such a creative and caring group. Being part of Village Green has enriched my life and I trust yours too.
Enjoy the Dance!
– Sue Stanton
Originally published in abridged form in the Feb. 2012 Town Crier.