Who was Richard White?

Just recently I received a query relating to my article on the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet published in Dance Research in 2011. In that article I mentioned that there were some ancillary activities associated with the Sydney season of the company’s tour and noted that ‘a demonstration of the Cecchetti technique took place in conjunction with Sydney ballet teacher Richard White’.

‘Who was Richard White?’ was the query.

I didn’t go into the Richard White episode in detail in the Dance Research piece as it was something of a side issue to the main thrust of the article. However, in response to the query and after a bit of delving into old newspapers I can add that Richard White ran a ‘dancing academy’ in Sydney and advertised it variously including as ‘Sydney’s outstanding School for classical ballet, rhythm, tap, musical comedy and ballroom’ and as  ‘Australia’s Foremost School’ . In other advertisements he describes himself as ‘Ballet Master to J. C. Williamson Ltd and Prince Edward Theatre’. Richard White, SMH 1935[See note below for further explanation of the advertisement reproduced above.]

From contemporary newspaper articles Richard White appears to have been a very proactive gentleman. He produced a range of entertainments using pupils from his school, was the dance adjudicator at various eisteddfods, ran a Musical Comedy and Revue Club and his Richard White Girls danced prior to film showings at the now demolished Prince Edward Theatre in Sydney. One of his shows is reported to have included ‘a great variety of Work including tap, character and symbolic dancing as well as pure ballet in “The Birthday of the Infanta”.

But in terms of the Cecchetti demonstration during the Sydney season of the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, I suspect it was his assistant, Jocelyn Yeo, who contributed most to the event. She had arrived from London at some earlier stage and was White’s ‘associate ballet teacher’ according to contemporary reports, although she too seems to have been extraordinarily proactive.

On the occasion of the Cecchetti demonstration she joined members of the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet to demonstrate the technique. According to Alan Brissenden and Keith Glennon in their book Australia Dances (still the most useful book on Australian dance history to have been published in recent years), Yeo had trained with Margaret Craske before coming to Australia. The Australian Women’s Weekly of 3 November 1934 tells us she was a ‘soloist from the Diaghileff Russian Ballet’ and ‘was also with the famous Anton Dolin Company’. The short Women’s Weekly story goes on to explain that she was ‘a fully accredited teacher of the Cecchetti method of the classical ballet—the method adopted by such famous dancers as Pavlova, Dolin, Idkzowski [sic], Baronova and others’ and that she was ‘a member of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, London, and passed the intermediate and advanced examinations in classical ballet with honors’.

Those with a greater knowledge of the history of Cecchetti work in Australia than I may be able to add more about Yeo and/or White.

NOTE: The scanned advertisement reproduced above has been taken from a poor quality source. It comes from The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 March 1935, p. 3 and can be viewed on Trove by using those details in the search box of the digitised newspaper section.

Michelle Potter, 26 February 2013

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6 thoughts on “Who was Richard White?

  1. Michelle, you may be interested in an article I wrote, “Shining a Light on the Legacy of Cecchetti in Australia”, in Cecchetti International Ballet – Annual Newsletter, No 17, 2011. As it is my area of research I would be happy for any feedback/information.
    UPDATE: At Anne’s request I have removed the online version of her article while she is updating it. MP 1 July 2014.

  2. Thank you Anne for this very informative article. It expands very nicely on an aspect of the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet tour that I only touched on in my Dance Research article.

  3. Athol Willoughby tells me that he believes that Jocelyn Yeo came originally from New Zealand and that former Australian Ballet dancer Anna de Cardi is a descendant of Yeo.

  4. Hello Michele
    I think your mysterious Mr White was a member of the Edgley family, whose real name was White. At one time Richard White was a member of the “Dick and Dorothy Trio”. You’ll find a little more on the Eric Edgley piece I wrote for Live Performance Australia’s online Hall of Fame. Cheers, Frank

  5. Hello Frank, how nice to hear from you. And what an interesting comment. I will make sure others who have shown interest in this post are aware of your comment.

  6. Thanks for sharing the information. There is such a wealth of material still to be recorded on the history of performing arts in Australia. Frank Van Straten is certainly one of the leaders in this field.

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