Life of drama and dance
by Bill McCauley
12th May 2015
YVONNE Reid is a woman of considerable presence. Dressed in black she welcomes the Diary into her rather spectacular stone-built residence in Banning Rd, North Warrandyte. Yvonne’s warmth and intelligence shines through as she talks about her life as a dancer, actor, teacher, choreographer, psychologist and Jungian analyst.
Her contribution to our arts community is immeasurable through her role as drama and dance teacher with the Warrandyte Arts Association’s Theatrekids. For more than 25 years she encouraged freedom of expression with hundreds of young Warrandyte children through her creative dance and drama classes.
Yvonne came to live in Warrandyte in 1942 when she was only two, along with her mother Hilda Mitchell and sister Bev (then seven) and moved into a little cottage in Albert Rd. Little brother David was yet to be born.
“We had no electricity and no telephone,” Yvonne says. “Little lamps at night, possums, howling winds and all that stuff.”
Their father Lynton (Lyn) was away serving in the army during WWII. The girls naturally missed their Dad. “But we didn’t forget him,” Yvonne says. “Mum had a picture of Dad that we used to kiss every night before going to bed.”
The cottage was next to a huge cliff that dropped 300 feet to the river at Pound Bend.
“I used to climb down and spend time in a little cave hall way down the cliff,” she says. “Mum didn’t mind me climbing up and down the cliff because she said I was sure-footed.”
Perhaps time spent in that little cave sparked the imagination of the little girl who would later express her creative side with writing, dance and choreography.
Yvonne was interested in dance and theatre from an early age be- cause of her friendship with neighbour Yvonne Day.
“She was a dancer and I idolised her,” she explains. “Yvonne Day and her sister June had numerous scrapbooks full of pictures and stories about the Hollywood stars of the day.
“I was totally captivated and I knew the names and faces of the actors and dancers before I had ever seen them on film.”
Inspired, Yvonne began creative dance classes held by émigré dancers Hanny Kolm and Daisy Pernitzer from Vienna. It was a determined effort for an eight-year-old girl to make the journey into the city once a week and an absolute testament to her mother Hilda’s devotion to make this happen. It involved a series of bus and train rides and an overnight stay with her Nana in Box Hill.
Two years later, Yvonne was persuaded to move away from cre- ative dance and into the classical discipline by her friend Barbara McIntyre.
“I studied classical ballet at The Royal Academy of Dance in Exhibition St,” Yvonne says. “But in the end I wasn’t convinced that classical ballet was sufficient for really creative expression.”
Yvonne first had the idea of teaching creative dance when she was 15 when she suggested to the WAA that she could teach ballet and creative dance and offered to do it without payment.
“But Joan Golding from the committee thought that lessons too cheap might not be appreciated and it was decided that I would charge 2/6 per lesson,” she says.
“There was no television and no extra curricular activities in our little town in those days and the local lasses turned up in droves,” she adds, smiling.
“Over 30 little girls arrived at the hall for the first lesson. We had our first recital Children Love to Dance at the end of that year.”
One ex-student Suzanne Dour (nee McAuley) spoke to the Diary about attending Yvonne’s dance classes over 50 years ago.
“It was all very modern and we were very privileged to learn with Yvonne,” Suzanne says.
“During one concert we had cardboard boxes over our heads and were marching about all over the stage. It was a lot of fun and we were able to really express ourselves. I still dance around the place to this day.”
There were no boys in the first years as it was considered to be “too sissy”. A few years later, Yvonne began to incorporate drama into her classes and advertised the classes under the WAA Theatrekids name.
Many boys came and started doing exactly what the girls had been doing before them. Theatrekids workshopped plays and used the work as a “sociodrama” to engage with issues common to the kids such as bullying.
In 1976 success came with one of Theatrekids productions entitled Gliders and Spirits when the one- act play won the Victorian State Schools Drama Competition.
“It was about a group of kids on a picnic in the Warrandyte bush,” Yvonne says. “It was a play with a magical touch and in one scene the kids are flying their gliders from a cliff very much like the one I climbed down as a child at Pound Bend. There is a transformation in the scene and suddenly the Wur- rundji children are dancing.”
Another highlight for Theatrekids was The Wizard of Warrandyte, a play that was instigated by the kids after some of them saw a bulldozer crushing some young trees. The hero of the day was The Wizard, an androgynous spirit figure who fought The Glink, a metallic monster symbolizing the earthmovers and bulldozers.
In 1959 Yvonne sailed to Italy on The Fairsky. After landing in Naples she took a train journey across Europe that she describes as stunning. She arrived in London to try her luck as an actress in repertory theatre.
Australian painters Yvonne and Arthur Boyd invited her to live with them in return for being a mother’s helper and she travelled through Europe with the Boyds.
“Seeing galleries in Europe with Arthur Boyd was quite something,” Yvonne says.
Yvonne was offered a season with Oldham Rep but homesickness was starting to bite. Another cold dark English winter was setting in and she was broke. Yvonne rang her father Lyn and he sent her the money for the trip home.
Back in Melbourne, Yvonne was reacquainted with Irving Reid.
“He was a dashing young man with a love of literature and art,” she says. “Once together it became an absurd notion that we would ever part and we never did.”
They were married in 1962, the same year as the bushfires burnt down Yvonne’s childhood home on top of the cliff in Albert Rd. They had four children: Lynton, Sacha, Duc and Than.
Unfortunately Irving passed away three years ago.
“It’s been an extremely difficult time, especially since his illness was misdiagnosed and wrongly treated,” Yvonne says.
Her wonderfully strong and determined face softens as she talks about Irving, the love of her life: “He was a painter, writer, mathematician and a great actor too! I miss him terribly, he was my best friend.”
Gough Whitlam’s initiatives in tertiary education made it possible for Yvonne to return to study and in 1982 she achieved registration as a psychologist. In 2005 she graduated as a Jungian analyst, 13 years study in all.
Yvonne believes her work as a psychologist and Jungian analyst is not far removed from the arts and she agrees with Jung’s notion that the value of imagination is a creative force.
Although Yvonne has achieved many accolades for both her creative and academic work, she is still passionate about her ten-year association with the Warrandyte Environment League.
“It is still profoundly important to me,” she says.
“One of the highlights of being involved with the league was being able to save Koornong from housing development.”
Today aged 74 Yvonne still works three days a week as a Jungian analyst. She is forever interested in the human psyche and the wonder of the universe.
Speaking as a practicing christian, Yvonne’s final comment is practical as much as being philosophical.
“I think the world needs some fresh approaches to solving the worsening problems of our planet.”