Some people are born to dance and right from an early age Elva Hoppe was showing signs of things to come.
Elva's dancing career started when she was about five or six. In her teens she won a gold medal for
Irish dancing and subsequently taught Irish dancing at the Irish Club and other places.
Elva and Charles Hoppe started dancing in Brisbane right at the start of the Square Dance activity in the 1950’s as members of the University club at St Lucia under the direction of the late Doctor Ivor Burge (Dr Burge was a Physical Education lecturer at the University and had started as a Square Dance caller while on a ship returning from a teaching stint in the United States in 1928. He began his teaching at the University of Queensland in 1941 where he held small Square Dance classes). It was in the boom times of the early 50’s that things took off and it is when Elva was dancing.
In 1960 the inaugural National Square Dance Convention was held in Canberra, and Elva was there. It was around this time that the interest in Rounds was developing and Elva started a Round Dance group that became the Carousel Round Dance Club. Details on the venue the club actually started in are not clear,but by the late 1960’s the group was using the Church of England hall adjacent to Lang Park at Milton.
As Round Dancing was finding its feet Elva was developing the club by conducting beginner classes as well as demonstrations at major Square Dance functions. With the first National to be held in Brisbane, Elva and the Carousels put on a Round Dance demonstration with Rainbow Round My Shoulders (‡) and You’re The Cream In My Coffee (‡).
Round Dancing in Brisbane continued to grow under Elva through the 1960’s and 1970’s, with the Carousel group being the only regular Round Dance Club. Round Dancing was a part of the nightly program for a number of Square Dance clubs and Elva had a lot of ties with these regarding advice and suggested material.In 1980 Elva was awarded the Qld Square Dancing Society's "Silver Spur" award for her service to Square Dancing and Round Dancing. It was in the mid 1980’s that the redevelopment of the roads around Lang Park saw the closure of the club hall, which in itself was a controversial point with a lot of the local community. Much history was removed, including the small graveyard down the side of the hall. This saw the club move to new premises at St. Lucia where the club stayed until Elva’s passing.
Demonstrations were a regular occurrence at major Square Dance functions, with Elva hand making a lot of the props used in these. Colourful hats and umbrellas, bow ties, vests, and the customary new dresses for the ladies were all part of it. The last demonstration Elva was organising was a dance written specifically for her by Vernon Porter from the United States. Vernon was a teacher of some note in the USA through the 1970’s whom Elva had befriended by mail. “I Still Call Australia Home” was to be presented by Elva at the QLD State Convention in 1988 at the Downy Park Table Tennis Centre. Sadly Elva passed away a few weeks before the festival, but the club rallied together and presented the dance on her behalf.
Brisbane dancers have a lot to be thankful for because of the effort and driving influence Elva had generated in her life as a dance teacher. While the dances taught by Elva were a lot different from some that are presented today, it was the concerted effort placed on timing and the basics of the dance that saw many continue with the dancing as not only an enjoyable pastime, but also an important part of their social life.
( (‡) Unconfirmed detail)