Monterey County Dance Theatre (MCDT) was originally the Pauline Hall Dance Studio founded by the late Pauline Hall in 1958. The Studio emerged from the efforts of a young married woman with three children determined to enrich their lives with the arts. Pauline played piano, violin, cello, banjo, guitar, had a gifted voice, wrote and composed music and had studied classical and theatrical dance especially tap.
The early students included the neighbourhood children who took classes, first in her house with her three daughters (JeNell, Jan and Paula), then, outgrowing her house, Pauline began teaching at the El Camino Hotel Grand Ballroom and St Mark's Episcopal Church Parish Hall. Finally she found a permanent home with adequate space at 228 Broadway, King City. As the technical level of the students grew along with her studio, at its peak between 1970-1980 she had satellite studios in Soledad and Greenfield with over 250 students dancing.
Pauline presented the FIRST Nutcracker Ballet in the Salinas Valley and one of the first in California in 1959. The early productions were presented in operatta format with Pauline's recorded voice telling the story over the music to small audiences. Bringing Nutcracker into the Salinas Valley and the very rural small town of King City was no small endeavour. At that time, quite unlike today where Nutcracker has become
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well known and popularized, it was quite the opposite - few knew the story or music. Pauline was undaunted even when she was chided by some of her fellow teachers in Salinas and Carmel that is was not possible to do Nutcracker especially in King City of all places. Her professional friends Joann Adair, Ramon Renov, Patricia Ramsey and Norma Jean Wiley tried to dissuade her. Knowing the limits of her young studio the operetta format served as an appropriate launching point for the future full length ballet that she was determined to produce.Â
Full productions of the ballet were staged in King City in 1964, The Balanchine version, with changes in story characters, launched The Nutcracker Ballet into the holiday and popular iconic status it receives today. This makes what Pauline Hall did even more incredulous and noteworthy. Using her innate determination and natural talents Pauline produced the ballet from her own funds. As a superb tailor she designed costumes and sewed them from pictures she found of the Nutcracker characters and from her personal visit to see the San Francisco Opera Ballet production of The Nutcracker. She designed paper mache masks for the Nutcracker, an elephant she used in Act 2 with a lemon drop fairy, and a Chinese Dragon all handmade. Her lifelong friend Joy Merkle assisted her in the sewing and paper mache. Her elegant Waltz of the Flower costumes were magnificent. She would spend sleepless nights sewing these costumes for her dancers. She said â€œit takes me 8 hours to put together a waltz of the flower romantic tutu and if I begin in the evening it will be ready the next morningâ€?. Many of her original costumes were used at the 50th anniversary celebration of Nutcracker in 2009. That they survived through the years is the signature of a true great artisians work.
Pauline opened the creative door for her students and community. She established the Pauline Hall dance Studio Scholarship in 1960 to assist students in their educational artistic goals. Always trying to ensure her students received quality dance education she brought in guest teachers. Olive Reynolds was especially helpful in working with tap and character classes. Bringing the dance and artistic world to her students was extremely important and many bus trips to San Francisco to see not only the ballet but the city were arranged through the years. In October 1976 Richard Cammack, director of the San Francisco Ballet School, came to King City to teach ballet classes in her studio at her request. It was quite a compliment for her as he only made 5 or 6 guest teaching engagements a year. Mr Cammack said after receiving Mrs Halls letter and reading her appeal for more cultural outlets in King City, I could not help but to be interested. She is a very dedicated woman. He subsequently invited Mrs Hall and her daughter Jan to San Francisco to observe classes that they accepted and attended to assist in their curriculum development.
Seeking to enrich her students prompted her again to reach out and secure the first live orchestrated ballet production in Monterey County. The Salinas High School Symphonic Orchestra and choir under the direction of David Mulder.
Sadly Pauline passed away in January 2011 after a long illness. The 50th Golden anniversary of the first performance of The Nutcracker Ballet in Monterey County as originally presented by Pauline was marked by her daughter Jan Harkness in December 2009 with a new staging of the Christmas classic . Monterey County Dance Theatre (MCDT) proudly continues the legacy of Pauline Hall, retaining The Nutcracker in our repertory for our dancers and our community. We share the same vision that art/dance can flourish anywhere if students and their communities are provided an opportunity to see, to learn, and to participate.
MONTEREY COUNTY DANCE THEATRE
332 BASSETT STREET
KING CITY, 93930
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