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Festival to celebrate the life of dance master John Weaver

Events in Shrewsbury to celebrate the life of dance master John Weaver for the 350th anniversary of his birth.

John Weaver was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire in 1673, and he was educated in the town. He returned to Shrewsbury from London to establish his own dance school, continuing as a dance master until late in life, dying in 1760 at the grand age of 87, which was testament to the healthy life of a dancer!

John Weaver’s impact on the development of dance was significant and many people attribute to him the title ‘Father of English Ballet’. After studying ballet, and teaching at the London Contemporary Dance School, Maggie Love of Shrewsbury is co-ordinating a festival of events titled the John Weaver 350 Celebrations.

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Maggie Love said: “We are very proud in Shrewsbury to be able to celebrate our famous son this year and our celebrations started with the inaugural John Weaver Dance Festival hosted by Shrewsbury School on 18th and 19th March. Local dance teams competed for the silver John Weaver Cup presented by His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner as John Weaver’s father taught dance at the school. John Weaver was a pupil and a teacher there. It was a wonderful weekend of talented performances from the young dancers who joined us. We will continue our celebrations in July which is the anniversary of John Weaver’s baptism on 21st July 1673, the first date we can ascribe to him.”

Saturday 15th July will see a Dance Showcase in St Mary’s church, Shrewsbury from 11am to 3pm, with performances by the finalists from the John Weaver Dance Festival. The splendid 14th-century stained-glass East Jesse window was originally in the Old St Chad’s church where John Weaver’s family worshipped and John Weaver was buried in the south aisle in 1760 (before it collapsed in 1788). Admission is free

On Thursday 20th July at 2.30pm, dance historian Moira Goff, will talk about Hester Santlow, -England’s first ballerina, who danced with John Weaver. Moira’s talk is at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

The renowned dancing group The Weaver Ensemble will perform ‘Mr Weaver Presents ‘ a performance of The Loves of Mars and Venus and The Loves of Pygmalion, at Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, 7:30 pm on Friday 21st July.

Members of the ensemble will also be delivering a workshop on Saturday 22nd July, titled ‘Movement with Meaning’ at The HIVE, 5 Belmont, Shrewsbury, between 10am and 11:30am. This will be a great opportunity to experience some of the dance gestures that John Weaver would have performed and taught. The workshop is followed by the final event of this special weekend, with a wreath- laying in Old St Chad’s Churchyard.

Maggie Love concluded: “The performances, dance showcases and workshops will be a great opportunity to experience some of the dance gestures and indeed capture the ambience of the dancing steps of many years ago and which have been the foundation of both classical ballet and the English Pantomime ballet (Pantomimus ) which John Weaver revived from Roman times. It was then a most popular entertainment with for example a solo dancer representing mythological themes but unsung, and accompanied by musical instruments and a chorus.

Shrewsbury will continue celebrating Weaver through our Summer Arts Trail during July and August. In recognition of Weaver’s anniversary, the Trail’s theme for 2023 is ‘Movement’.

The Arts Trail includes an exhibition to John Weaver in Shrewsbury School’s Moser Gallery in the library. Early editions of his books will be on display and the books he donated to the school in 1743. Tickets will be available for both the Hester Santlow talk and the Movement with Meaning workshop from ticketsource.co.uk.

Find out more by visiting shrewsburyartstrail.com for details.

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