From dancing at the Danilo to acrobatics in Amsterdam, Brenda steps out with book
SPILLS, THRILLS WITH CIRCUS ADVENTURES AND SUNBEAMS REMEMBERED IN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
A DANCER whose prolific career included a stint with a Dutch circus, as well as in shows in Hinckley and Leicester, has written a book about her life.
Brenda Moore, 85, has penned Dancing Through Life, to detail for her family the varied events of her career as a performer, musician and acrobat.
Brenda, from Hinckley, worked for many years with Monica Mason’s Sunbeams group, which regularly featured in the Hinckley Carnival and did many theatrical performances in the area, including at the Danilo cinema and the Concordia theatre.
Her daughter, Kim, said: “She’s been going round delivering books to various people. We’re hoping to get one in for the library.
“It’s been amazing the response from people, they had no idea of the extent of my mum’s life.”
Brenda was born in May 1935 in Tudor Road, Hinckley.
Her debut performance was at the age of six in a production of the operatta, Maid Marion and Robin Hood.
During her formative years with the Sunbeams school, she danced most nights while working in the day, learning ballroom, Irish and National.
She gained her major certificates, including from the Royal Academy of Dance, intermediate ballet, grade six in tap, modern and acrobatics, and started doing part-time teaching with the school, while working towards her teaching certificates.
The Sunbeams did many shows at different venues, including the ballet The Red Shoes, which they danced each evening at the Danilo cinema before the start of the film.
It was around this time that Brian, Brenda’s future husband, joined the Sunbeams, and he soon started to enjoy the stage work and fund-raising for the different charities.
In August 1951, the group organised a variety evening at the Danilo cinema, for the children and their families of St Gerard’s Hospital.
Brenda got involved with the circus while still a young dancer, when she answered an advert in The Stage newspaper, calling for dancers to train as aerialists.
She and her friend Jean got an interview and they were offered a place to become part of Digger Pugh’s Aerial Ballet with Mullen’s three-ringed circus, in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Brenda’s dad had to counter-sign her contract as she was underage for a permit to work abroad.
It was hard work learning to ride elephants and camels, dancing with the horses, and mastering the gymnastics needed for shows.
Brenda says in the book: “Opening night was amazing and we performed to a packed audience.
“Then began the full tour of many cities and towns – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht, The Hague and many more.
“We stayed three to seven nights in each place depending on the size of the town. Every performance was as exciting as the first.”
There were some trips and spills, including a flooded tent when the performers got up to their knees in water, and Brenda once put her jaw out during a collision practising on the trampoline.
They did 10 shows a week, with two on Sunday, with a service and blessing in the centre ring every Sunday morning from the local priest.
At the end of the season, Jean and Brenda returned to Hinckley, and although she had a new contract to stay on with the circus, Brenda decided to stick with the Sunbeams group.
She finished her diploma in ballet, tap stagecraft and acrobatics, and started to work with Monica as a qualified teacher.
She also formed a dancing duo with Brian, known as 2Bs, performing in many shows in Leicestershire and neighbouring counties.
The pair took the dance leads in The Boyfriend, Carousel, Oklahoma! and many others.
When the Caroll Levis Discoveries Show came to Leicester, Brian and Brenda and their friend Susan Mills auditioned for a specialty acrobatic act.
They were so successful they appeared for the full two weeks, as they were a contrast to the other acts, who were mostly singers and comedians.
Monica was a talented accordion player and she taught Brenda the instrument.
Brenda studied at the Leicester
School of Music, including a Junior Teaching Diploma, and she hugely enjoyed teaching others to play accordion.
She performed in the Sunbeams’ production of Aladdin and, in 1956, she starred in Snow White as the Spirit of the Mirror, while Brian played the Dame.
That same year she got engaged to Brian and they married in March 1957 at St Mary’s Church.
Brenda worked for a while at the Hill Street Co-op but after Kim was born in 1958, she decided to focus on her dancing.
Kim played the miniature accordion from the age of three and was soon performing on stage in productions.
Brenda is still involved with the Shelby Academy of Performing Arts in Hinckley.
The book ends on a happy note: “The perfect place to end this book is to record the birth of my second great-grandchild, born to Aynsley and Rachel on 24th March, 2020.
“I wonder what amazing things he will do and witness in his lifetime.
“All I can ask is that he and all my wonderful family will be as happy as I have been.
“God bless you all.”