Vaughn Moore’s Studio of Terpsichorean Art

CVA 99-1917 – Vaughn Moore group at Lost Lagoon. 1929. Stuart Thomson. I think Vaughn is the gent on the left. The other man appears to me to be Vaughn’s brother.

For those of you who (like me) are not well-versed in advanced crossword clues, the term “Terpsichorean” pertains to dancing. Vaughn Drier Moore (1894-1965) made a career out of providing dancing instruction in the Pacific Northwest from about 1919 until his death in 1965.

Vaughn was born to LeBaron and Thirza Moore in Connell, New Brunswick and came to Vancouver at a relatively young age (about 21), circa 1915. Moore played on a local amateur lacrosse team, the Olympics, from 1913-1915. He was also team captain.

A wedding notice in 1917 mentioned that Moore had been studying at Columbia College — a Methodist school in New Westminster — for a number of years. This would be the first of two marriages for Moore; this time to Lilas May van Houten.

Vaughn and Lilas’s marriage certificate shows Vaughn as being an “advertising agent” at the time of their wedding. But his directory listing in that year indicates he was a law student (if that’s accurate, he didn’t pursue studies in the law for long).

Oddly, I could not find any record that indicated that Moore was involved in WW1.

By 1919, Moore had established the first of his dancing schools, which he called “The Vaughn Moore Studio of Terpsichorean Art”. I’m guessing that he received some negative feedback on the name of his studio and within a year, it became the somewhat more pedestrian-sounding “The Lilas and Vaughn Moore Studio of Graceful Ballroom Dancing” and less than a year later, simply “The Vaughn Moore School of Dancing”. The studio’s first location was above the Colonial Theatre at the SW corner of Granville and Dunsmuir (603 Granville). It had branch studios, as early as 1920, in the Fairview and Grandview districts and a studio in Seattle. In the early 1920s, the downtown studio was moved from the Colonial Theatre building to a space on the second floor across the street from David Spencer’s store at 518 W. Hastings.

CVA 447-399 – Colonial Theatre. 1972. Walter Edwin Frost. This image was made just before the Colonial Building (aka the Kinemacolor Building) was demolished to make way for Pacific Centre Mall.

In 1923, Vaughn and Lilas were awarded by Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Valentino the Valentino Dancing Trophy (a loving cup), upon being judged to be Vancouver’s best ballroom dancers (Sun. 3 June 1923).

The Moores taught classical ballroom dance and also tap dance and the latest dance moves. In 1928, for example, they taught the Lindbergh Waltz (aka, the Lindy Hop) and the Varsity Drag.

Moore was divorced from Lilas Moore in 1929. Interestingly, Lilas married another dancer in 1943, one Arthur G. Lewis. In 1931, Moore married Lilian Bonython. He was also divorced from Lilian at some point.

Moore fell down the stairs in his apartment at 1374 W. Broadway in September 1965, fracturing his skull. He was 71. His death was found by Coroner Glen McDonald (whose autobiography, How Come I’m Dead?, I highly recommend) to be a suicide. The Vaughn Moore Dance Studio continued to operate until February 1966.

CVA 99-4186 – Vaughn Moore Tap Review at Capital Theatre. 1932. Stuart Thomson.
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2 Responses to Vaughn Moore’s Studio of Terpsichorean Art

  1. C. Lazecki says:

    Very interesting story! I should add that Moore’s dance studio at 1468 West Broadway was destroyed by fire on December 23, 1964, not too long before his death.

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