Around the Island

Friday Night Dialogues: From the Blitz to Broadway — Mollie Numark’s life behind the make-up

COURTESY PHOTO | Mollie Numark in the Blackpool Tower Children’s Ballet
COURTESY PHOTO | Mollie Numark in the Blackpool Tower Children’s Ballet

The Shelter Island Library’s Friday Night Dialogues on April 20 will feature Mollie Fennell Numark who will discuss her thrilling journey from war torn Britain to the New York City stage. Moderated by Shelter Island’s own Gary Paul Gates, this fascinating story of Ms. Numark’s life focuses on her early years as a dancer in Britain during the war and follows her as she moves to the United States. 

Her story starts in the 1930s, when at the age of seven, she was able to take ballet classes and fell in love with dance. In the early 1940s, when

COURTESY PHOTO | COURTESY PHOTO Mollie Numark as a young dancer.
COURTESY PHOTO | Mollie Numark as a young dancer.

the British motto was “stay calm and carry on,” Ms. Numark carried her ballet shoes and a gas mask to her lessons after school. She recounts her experiences as a professional child dancer in the Tower Children’s Ballet which performed at the Blackpool Tower in the north of England. While bombs pounded Britain, the performances continued for Christmas and summer holidays.

Ms. Numark describes all the different things that a dancer needed to do for these performances — including roller skating ballet and learning to “fly” through the air for the flying ballet. In 1948 she was in “Cinderella” in Liverpool for the pantomime season, despite piles of rubble still left on the ground from the Blitz. In 1950, the Blackpool Opera House show moved to London to the Adelphi Theater. The following year she auditioned for John Tiller Girls, the precision dancing group that was the predecessor of the Rockettes. In 1952, she and a friend answered an ad for British dancers to come to Miami Beach, Florida, for a winter performance. The pay of 30 pounds a week, plus hotel and round trip transportation, sounded like a lot of money to them. Thus began Ms. Numark’s adventures in the United States.

To hear more, including the stories of all the movie stars and colorful people that Ms. Numark met along the way, join us at 7 p.m. in the Community Room of the Shelter Island Library on Friday, April 20. Admission is free with donations gladly accepted. For more information, contact the library at (631) 749-0042.

Next Up: On Friday, May 4, Friday Night Dialogues presents “Going Deep: John Philip Holland and the Invention of the Attack Submarine” with Lawrence Goldstone.

Submitted by Brett James