Travelling with the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet

A comment from a New York friend and colleague, whose much admired teacher at the School of American Ballet was Anatole Oboukhoff, along with some subsequent correspondence with Anna Northcote’s niece, have prompted me to post the image below. It shows Oboukhoff with Vera Nemchinova and the captain of the R. M. S. Kenilworth Castle, the ship on which the dancers of the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet travelled from England to South Africa for the first leg of their 1934–1935 tour.

Oboukhoff and Nemchinova on board the 'Kenilworth Castle', 1934
Oboukhoff and Nemchinova on board the ‘Kenilworth Castle’, 1934

One can’t help but admire Nemchinova’s posed right leg with its beautifully slim ankle.  Nor can one fail to admire the elegant way in which both Nemchinova and Oboukhoff are dressed. Shipboard life has changed since 1934! I was also delighted to discover on Andros on Ballet the following recollection of Nemchinova, the teacher:

‘There was a time when ballerinas dressed and acted like the stars they were. Madame [Nemchinova] always dressed to come to class, and left the same way. By chance, I rode the elevator with her. She had on a pill box hat with a veil, a two-piece suit, high heeled shoes and to top it off, a fur stole. The highest of high fashion was her daily wear’.

On tour, however, the dancers did enjoy some relaxed moments. In South Africa, for example, they picnicked in Durban, visited the zoo in Pretoria and watched Zulu dancing in Johannesburg. Even on such occasions though they rarely forgot the fundamental attitudes of the day.

Members of the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet on a picnic in Durban, 1934
Members of the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet on a picnic in Durban, 1934

They continue to surprise with the way in which they each embraced the life of a touring dancer in the 1930s.

Michelle Potter, 19 July 2011

Photos: Anna Northcote (Severskaya). Personal archive, private collection

4 thoughts on “Travelling with the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet

  1. The Manifest of the Kenilworth Castle shows that the Company travelled First Class, except for young Juliana Enakieva’s mother, who went Third, which does seem a bit penny-pinching – more Dandre (who kept such a tight hold on the purse strings of the Pavlova Company) than Levitoff, perhaps?

  2. I came across this information while doing research about some photo albums dating back to 1934 with photos of the ballet co. performing on the Crown Mine 15 July 1934. Present V Nemtchinova E Roné R Kouznetzova.

  3. Another photo of picnic party near Sterkfontein Caves before a bottle of brandy was finished and one after the aformementioned bottle was finished. 8 July 1934

  4. Thank you for this information, especially the comment re the Sterkfontein Caves. It is always interesting to find reference to new and different off-stage activities. Are you able to share the photos?

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