Tuesday, January 11, 2022

On this day in 1922 in the life history of Louise Brooks

Nineteen twenty-two was a pivotal year in the life of Louise Brooks. It was a whirlwind year. Brooks was a teenager, just 15 at the beginning of the year, and she was following her passion for dance while performing in local theaters and before clubs and civic organizations in her hometown of Wichita, Kansas. By the end of the year, she was a member of the prestigious Denishawn Dance Company, touring the United States and performing alongside such dance greats as Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn. This blog commences a new series of posts documenting significant happenings in Brooks' life on this day one-hundred years ago.

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On this day in 1922 in the life history of Louise Brooks . . . . Brooks, along with other students from the Mills-Fischer School of Dance and Dramatic Arts, attends a performance in nearby Hutchinson, Kansas by dance legend Anna Pavlova and her Ballet Russe. The Mills referenced in the name of the dance school was none other than Alice Mills, who was immortalized as "The Chaperone" in Laura Moriarty's splendid novel of the same name which centers on Brooks and events in her life in 1922.


What a remarkable happenstance -- the coming together of two iconic figures of the 20th century. Its only equivalent was when Ruth St. Denis took Brooks and the other Denishawn dancers to see Isadora Duncan perform.

In case you are not familiar with Pavlova (or Pavlowa), she was one of the great dancers of the 20th century. Her Wikipedia entry begins, "Anna Pavlovna was born Anna Matveyevna Pavlova (12 February 1881 – 23 January 1931), was a Russian prima ballerina of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. She was a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev. Pavlova is most recognized for her creation of the role of The Dying Swan and, with her own company, became the first ballerina to tour around the world, including performances in South America, India and Australia." Her likeness and legend are commemorated in artwork all around the world. 

The Hutchinson News reported that "Kansas was favored with only two stops" (the other was in Emporia), and that there was great demand for tickets. The paper also noted that Pavlova brought a special teak wood stage with her on which she did all of her dancing.


Speaking to a local reporter, Pavlova said she liked performing in small towns because they "are not so blase" as larger cities. She also stated that the student she met in Emporia "were so warm, so kind".  She also appreciated the "beegness" of the landscape, which she said reminded her of her native Russia. The Hutchinson News called Pavlova a "citizen of the world," and noted she was "Exiled through the war and the subsequent reign of terror in Russia."

Pavlova noted "My ballet was an unforgettable success in Emporia last night," and apparently, so it was as well in Hutchinson. The Hutchinson News reported there was a large turnout, with attendees reportedly arriving from Great Bend, Halstead, Hays, Lyons, Larned, Kinsloy, Langdon, Little River, McPherson, Marquette, Newton, Salina and Wichita. 

We don't know if Brooks had the opportunity to meet Pavlova, but it seems the performance left its mark on the young dancer. The photo in the newspaper advertisement above is certainly reminiscent of this photo of the 15 year old Brooks.

1 comment:

  1. Been looking at some of the wonderful photos of Louise Brooks and found your site from the doctormarco.com - enjoyed your site very much.

    ReplyDelete

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