Danceland at Manitou Beach
Gems can be found in the most unique places, and Danceland is one of them. Nestled in the valley of Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan, Canada, along the shores of Little Manitou Lake is a historical dance hall called Danceland, built in 1930.
When we decided to camp this summer in the area of Manitou Beach, it was for the opportunity to go swimming in the “Lake of the Healing Waters”. Little Manitou Lake was named years ago by the Cree First Nations People in reference to the Great Spirit. Legend says that when their people were afflicted with illness, they consumed and swam in the waters of the lake, and became healed overnight. It is the only lake in North America with properties similar to the Dead Sea in Jordan. Swimming in it was a truly a unique experience as the mineral salts kept me afloat, and it was hard to stand up while in the water. My body felt rejuvenated and so soft after my dip in the lake.
Due to the popularity of the lake, the area blossomed during the 1920’s and it became a tourist destination equivalent to the throngs of people who visited Banff, Alberta, Canada during the same time. The original Danceland was built before 1919, but was replaced in 1930 with the current structure. What makes the 13,000 square foot dance hall so unique is its 5000 square feet of maple tongue and groove flooring. But that’s not all. The hardwood floor was laid without any nails being used. Beneath the floor is two sub floors with rolls of horsetail wrapped in burlap and tightly wound with wire, with six inches diameter between them. These rolls run cross ways under the floor every four feet. It’s the six inches of horsetail, imported from Quebec, Canada, which gives the floor its spring. The top sub floor has stops so the floor only goes down one to one and a half inches. The cushioning of the horsetail brings it back up. Imagine if you will, that the amount of horsetail used added up to one train car full (circa 1930’s).
Overhead, is an intricate arched roof supported by seven inch (18cm) square timbers all cut from a single piece of Douglas Fir. The wood construction dome roofing design, and height makes the acoustics pretty close to perfect. Saskatchewan is proud of this historical building, as it is the only one remaining of its kind on the continent.
During the early years of Danceland, bands such as Lawrence Welk, Duke Ellington, and Sammy Kaye would play for the exposure. Other bands that have been featured are Wilf Carter, Don Messer and his Islanders, the Guess Who and many more.
Unfortunately I was unable to experience a dance with music in this historic building, but was told that there is no comparison to any other dance floor. I walked on it, twirled and felt the bounce beneath my feet. Apparently the “reputation of Danceland is that as soon as the music starts, the dance floor is full”.
I’ll return one day to sample this truly historic gem hidden in a valley on the prairies of Saskatchewan, and to once again swim in the healing waters of Little Manitou Lake. I imagine dancing Nia to a live band would be a rare experience. What a dream that would be!