Saturday, July 12, 2014

Louise Brooks & Anna Pavlova

As is known, Louise Brooks was a member of the Denishawn Dance Company (then the leading modern dance troupe in America). She joined the company at age 15, and danced with them as a junior member for two seasons while they toured the United States and Canada. Notably, Brooks' time with Denishawn brought her into close contact with a handful of the key figures in modern American dance, namely company founders Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, and dancers Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weideman.

Brooks had other encounters with other noted dancers. While touring with Denishawn, for instance, the company took the opportunity to see a performance by Isadora Duncan, an occasion Brooks later wrote about (commenting on Duncan's wardrobe malfunction at the time).

What hasn't been known till know is that Brooks saw a performance by Anna Pavlova, another great dancer. Pavlova (sometimes spelled Pavolwa) was a Russian prima ballerina of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet as well as the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev. Pavlova is most recognized for the creation of the role "The Dying Swan" and, with her own company, became the first ballerina to tour ballet around the world. One of Pavlova's tours brought her to Kansas.

Abd that's when Brooks saw her dance. Prior to joining Denishawn, in January of 1922, Brooks and groups of Wichita dance students ventured to nearby Hutchinson, Kansas to see the famous touring prima ballerina. Here is a small article from the Wichita news paper noting the occassion, followed by an advertisement for the event.

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