Oct 10 2013

McMenamins artist Lyle Hehn's sweet depiction of Olevia Ireland's Dancing Academy features fun characters from Hotel Oregon's past as well as that of the Crystal Ballroom, since the delightful Miss Ireland graced both places over her career.

Irelands Dancing Academy art by Lyle HehnMiss Olevia Ireland arrived in Portland around 1909 and first worked as an actress. By 1913, she had given up the theater, taking a position as a dance instructor at Montrose Ringler's Dreamland Academy (located at SW 2nd and Morrison). Miss Ireland and fellow Dreamland instructor, Norman Whiting, gave exhibition dances together as partners on various stages around the city.  Ireland and Whiting were among those who introduced to Portland the Tango, Hesitation Waltz and One-Step.

The partners' exhibitions and instructions continued with Ringler when he moved his operations in 1914 from Dreamland Academy to his newly completed Cotillion Hall (now the Crystal Ballroom).

Cotillion Hall (now Crystal Ballroom)After about a year at Ringler's Cotillion Hall, Ireland and Whiting struck out on their own, opening the Whiting-Ireland Dancing Academy on the second floor of the Alisky Building on SW Morrison Street. In 1916, Whiting followed his father's footsteps, going into a career in printing [as recently as 1958, Whiting was working at The Oregon Journal as a proofreader]. Without her partner, Miss Ireland joined another local dancing school run by James A. Randall. This move was a stepping stone for opening her own school.

In 1917, Olevia Ireland established a dancing school in downtown Portland on the 5th floor of the Dekum Building. She advertised the venture as offering lessons in both "ball room and Esthetic dancing." She noted that "teaching of beginners in ball room dancing [was] a specialty, personal attention given," and that private and class lessons were given daily.

A September 1921 ad for "The Dance Studio" in the Oregon Journal [Sept. 11,1921, sec. 4:2] states:

Miss Ireland, pupil of the celebrated master, Stepheno Mascagno, announces the opening of Dancing Classes in Ballet technique and Up-to-Date Ballroom Dances on Thursday, September the 15th and thereafter,

Beginners' Class:
Mondays, 7:30pm
Thursdays, 7:30pm

Advance Class:
Mondays 9:00pm
Thursdays, 9:00pm

Eight Lessons $6.00

Ballet Technique
Children and Ladies
Children's classes Saturday mornings at 10:30 o'clock

Class Room, 509 Dekum Bldg., Washington at Third

Miss Ireland continued teaching in her Dekum Building studio through 1923. After that date, her name no longer appears in Portland City Directories.

Hotel ElbertonFrom the McMinnville Telephone Register of September 28, 1923: “Miss Olivia Ireland will be here to start her dancing class in Ballet and Ball Room dancing October 6th, at Elberton Hotel.”

Decades later, one little girl of the ’20s, Maxine Brooks, still recalled with delight the lovely and patient Miss Ireland and her special ballet lessons at Hotel Elberton, now Hotel Oregon.

• • •

If you are out on the town, be it at the Crystal Ballroom or at the Hotel Oregon, perhaps dancing the Tango or the One-Step, remember Miss Olevia Ireland.

About the author: Tim is the McMenamins Historian.
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#1 Mike

Interesting story. There is a long story on dance in Portland, both social (ballrom) and concert (ballet and tap, and more recently other dance forms). Many of thee teachers and performers (aren't all dance teacher ex-performers looking for more consistent income?) knew each other quite well and built a dance community that still operates today. The Billings' started a dance school in 1932 that continues today. That same year, Bill Christensen arrived in Portland and boosted the concert dance scene by working with existing dance teachers and performers, including Edith Varney and Maud Ainsworth (dance teachers circa 1910), and Katherine Laidlaw. Christensen trained Janet Reed, who danced with Jerome Robbins and eventually moved to New York to dance with Balanchine, and Jacqueline Martin Schumacher, who returned to teach in Portland and become a founder of the current Oregon Ballet Theatre. Other long-time dance instructors include Sally Mack, and the Stites family. It's nice to know the history of teh Crystal, and how the social and concert arts connect this community across what are now centuries as well as physical distance.

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