Blog

New John Weaver Festival Honours Shrewsbury Dancing Master
12 Jul 2023

The John Weaver Festival 2023 begins this weekend with a Dance Showcase at St Mary’s (July 15), The Weaver Ensemble (July 21) & talk by dance historian Moira Goff (July 20).

Not many people remember the name John Weaver - but without this Shrewsbury Dancing Master, there would be no such thing as ballet or pantomime.

This weekend aims to put that right, with the launch of a new festival to celebrate the 350th anniversary of John Weaver's birth, beginning with a dance showcase on Saturday (July 15) in St Mary's Church, followed by a talk by dance historian Moira Goff on July 20 and the famous 'Weaver Ensemble' at Theatre Severn on July 21. Plus there's an opportunity to tour a new Dance Exhibition in the Moser Library at Shrewsbury School (July 15 - 21), where you can view first editions of two of Weaver's works.

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 - clearly a 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.

Maggie 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 in March. Local dance teams competed for the silver John Weaver Cup - since John Weaver’s father taught dance at the school and Weaver himself was a pupil and a teacher there.

"We will continue our celebrations this July - as it is the anniversary of John Weaver’s baptism on 21st July 1673, the first date we can ascribe to him. The performances, dance showcases and workshops will be a great opportunity to experience some of the dance gestures and indeed capture the ambiance 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."

John Weaver logo

John Weaver Festival Dates

Saturday, July 15

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 free. 

Thursday, July 20

Dance historian Moira Goff, will give a talk about Hester Santlow, England’s first ballerina, who danced with John Weaver. Moira’s talk From Harlequine to Helen of Troy is at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery at 2.30pm. Tickets £5 HERE

Friday, July 21

The renowned dancing group The Weaver Ensemble will perform The Remarkably Talented Mr Weaver Presents a performance of The Loves of Mars and Venus and The Loves of Pygmalion, at Theatre Severn, at 7.30 pm. Tickets £15 HERE

Saturday, July 22

Members of The Weaver Ensemble will also be delivering a workshop 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 - a wreath-laying in Old St Chad’s Churchyard.

Footlights Dance School

Pictured: Footlights Dance School

John Weaver Festival & the Shrewsbury Arts Trail

Our town will continue John Weaver celebrations throughout the Shrewsbury Arts Trail during July and August. In recognition of Weaver’s anniversary, the Trail’s theme for 2023 is ‘Movement’. To find out more about the Arts trail and exhibitions visit www.shrewsburyartstrail.com for details.

John Weaver Exhibition: Shrewsbury School Moser Gallery

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. To visit this free exhibition book via ticketsource HERE

Festival Organiser Maggie Love...

Dance historian and choreographer Maggie is ‘enthusiasm on fire’ when it comes to John Weaver, who she says has inspired her from her beginnings with dance. Maggie joined Dance Historian Belinda Quiery at the London Contemporary Dance School where the principal happened to be researching John Weaver (he later published 'The Life and Works of John Weaver’). She now lives opposite Old St. Chad's church where John Weaver is laid to rest and has been travelling across Shropshire giving her talk 'The Evolution of Dance’, explaining why John Weaver is so important to the History of Dance.