Monday, September 10, 2007

This Week in Dance History

September 10, 1896- Adele Astaire, the Vaudeville entertainer whose star shone brighter than her younger brother and partner Fred, was born. The picture below is of young Fred and Adele in 1921. Adele was especially a hit in England. The UK's National Museum of the Performing Arts has a photo feature on the Astaire's trip to England.

September 11, 1850- Swedish soprano Jenny Lind was born. She was so popular that many dances were created in her honor: The "Jenny Lind Polka" and "Jenny Lind's Set of Waltz Quadrilles" are two such dances published in an 1858 dance manual.

And on this date in 1964, The ballet Cinderella to music by Sergei Prokofiev was presented in the United States for the first time by the Kirov Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York with Irina Kolpakova and Yuri Soloviev.

September 12, 1905- Dance director and choreographer of such musicals as Oklahoma and Carousel, Agnes Demille was born. Her Kennedy Center biography tells the story of how her sister's fallen arches led her to start dancing and how she went from being a "rotten dancer" considered "too fat" to being a successful dancer and one of the nation's top choreographers.

September 13, 1960- The American Ballet theater, the first American ballet company to perform in the USSR, began its tour before a packed house at Moscow's Stanislavsky Theater.

September 14, 1996- Actress and dancer Juliet Prowse (below) passed away at age 59. Prowse's dreams of becoming a ballerina were thwarted by her height. By the time she was 14, and attending the Royal Academy of Dance, she was almost six feet tall. Instead she became a dancer in European nightclubs. While dancing in Paris, she was spotted by Hollywood choreographer Hermes Pan and signed to a role in the movie "Can-Can." Soviet Premier Khrushchev was invited to watch rehearsals for the movie. The next day, he denounced the dance as immoral. Prowse's photo accompanied the news stories in newspapers worldwide and she became an instant celebrity.

September 15, 1834- Fanny Elssler made her debut in Paris in La Tempete a ballet based on William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

And on this date in 1876- Birthdate of Nikolai Sergeyev, dancer and company manager of the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg.

September 16, 1996- Dancer and actor Gene Nelson passed away at age 76. He was inspired to become a dancer after seeing the Fred Astaire film "Flying Down to Rio." He is best remembered for the role of cowboy Will Parker in the film "Oklahoma!"

September 17, 1904-The first major British choreographer, Frederick Ashton was born. An entire biography of Ashton has been released online. You can read Following Sir Fred's Steps here courtesy of the British bookseller Dance Books Ltd, which has a huge collection of dance books and DVDs. Here Anthony Dowell and Natalia Makarova dance the main pas de deux from Frederick Ashton's "A Month in the Country."