Autumn Flowers

31 10 2012

Combination Halloween and birthday party for sisters, Verla and Lorna Flowers, in 1923 (?).

Seattle dance enthusiasts have had much to get excited about this fall with two visits from local-boy-made-good, Mark Morris. First, in a brief engagement earlier this month by his own company at On the Boards; and this coming Friday will see the much-anticipated premiere of Kammermusik No. 3, his first work done on commission for Pacific Northwest Ballet.

In a recent interview, Morris claimed to be “not very nostalgic” about Seattle. While we do not take an official position on nostalgia, here at Special Collections we are very proud to be able to share at least a small fragment of an important part of Seattle’s dance legacy, and one that is intrinsically connected to Morris, the Verla Flowers scrapbook.

Verla Flowers (1913-2003), of course, was Morris’ first dance teacher. As Joan Acocella describes it in her biography, Mark Morris (1993), his mother chose Verla Flowers Dance Arts for her son from a newspaper advertisement after looking for a school that offered instruction in Spanish dance (p. 20). But enough about him for now. Verla Flowers clearly was an extraordinary woman in her own right.

The scrapbook that we are fortunate enough to have was begun originally by Verla Flowers’ mother, Augusta, who presented it to her daughter shortly before her graduation from Ballard High School, and was continued by Flowers for several more years. The volume documents Flowers’ childhood, her own early dance training and performances, her student years at Cornish, and her first forays into teaching. While it contains few photographs, it does include the above image of what appears to be a children’s Halloween party. This particular event may be the one described in a newspaper clipping (which, in the scrapbook, has had its date and source trimmed) titled, “Hallowe’en Party a Birthday Surprise for Flowers Sisters”:

Verla and Lorna are real Hallowe’en children, as both were born on October 31, though there is a four years’ difference in their ages. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Flowers, are active in the labor movement, Mr. Flowers being a member of Machinists’ Hope Lodge No. 79. The children’s birthdays are always celebrated with Hallowe’en gaiety. Verla is 10 and Lorna 6 this year.

Or maybe not. We certainly would welcome any additional information. While Mark Morris may be too busy to stop by right now, we hope that you will take the opportunity to come to Special Collections and investigate Seattle’s dance history more deeply.

Happy Halloween to all and happy birthday, Verla Flowers!

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