Dancing at the Orange
Dancing at the Orange
I often wonder how people managed before the internet came along and made everything easy and entertaining. They had to store so much knowledge in their minds - whereas I've outsourced almost everything to my iPhone. They had to make plans and organise precise times to meet each other. They had to plan routes on maps before they even climbed into their motorcars.
It really does seem as if people were somehow classier and more self-assured back then. Laughter was louder, cheeks were brighter and cider was fizzier. On balmy nights people dressed up and went to the local hall for live music and dancing. Proper dancing, I mean, with pre-planned steps and genetically bestowed coordination.
Do you know where Aucklanders danced, back in those golden days? At the Orange Coronation Hall on Newton Road, which just so happens to be around the corner from our new office in Eden Terrace.
You’ve probably driven past it a million times, this slightly sad brick building that soars skyward near the Symonds Street intersection. It’s majestic. It’s tired. It’s plastered with posters.
Did you know that this place was affectionately called “The Orange,” and that it was a cultural hotspot during the forties? The Hall was so ubiqitous to the Auckland entertainment scene that it made its way into the collective consciousness, even appearing in a folksong by Peter Cape called "Down the Hall on a Saturday Night". The Orange was built in 1923 by the Auckland Orange Hall Society, a branch of Irish Protestants in Auckland. Dances and public entertainment were held there right up until 1987. Dame Kiri te Kanawa even performed there, early in her career.
I was having a wander through Papers Past (which really is quite an amazing online resource) and I found an advertisement for the Orange Coronation Hall in a September 1939 issue of the Auckland Star. It says,
"Auckland's Beautiful Ballroom where you are always assured of the Highest Standard of Musical and Dance Entertainment. Join the select and happy crowd. Special Floor Lighting Effects. Something new and novel. A Fairyland of Colour."
Even advertising was more exciting back then.
According to another article I found, the Orange Coronation Hall was a place for single people to go and meet each other. The very thought of a singles night out these days conjures memories of speed dating in a dimly lit bar (yes, I have done that - all for the love of g&h). Being single these days seems a lot more depressing than it was back then...
We’ve have had this idea ever since the launch of gather & hunt to hold a Summer Dance series. We want to open up the Orange Coronation Hall (or some other obliging hall) and have cider and dancing and merriment. We’d make each event about a different dance, and ask someone to come in and teach us the steps, and then we’d all dance and dance until our worries (and our marital status) were forgotten. Yes, that sounds fun. Perhaps we'll make that happen next.
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