Finale, 'Les Sylphides', Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, ca. 1934

Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet. Divertissements and dancers in Australia, 1934–1935 tour

Renewed interest in my research into the 1934–1935 tour by the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet has prompted me to post further material that originally appeared as appendices to my article on the tours. The article appeared in Dance Research (Edinburgh University Press), 29:1 Summer 2011.

Below is a list of divertissements that were performed in Australia, Appendix B of the Dance Research article. In a previous post I listed the repertoire and schedule of performances (Appendix A of the Dance Research article) but listed only the title ‘Divertissements’, where appropriate, without giving details.

APPENDIX B: AUSTRALIAN DIVERTISSEMENTS
This list of divertissements, the short pieces that usually concluded each program, has been constructed from programs for Australian seasons in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Occasionally alternative names were used and they have been included preceded by a slash. Occasionally, too, Promenade (Old Vienna) and Polovtsian Dances were listed in advertisements as divertissements rather than as main program items. They have not been included on this list and have been kept as part of the main repertoire schedule. The list may not be complete and other divertissements may have been in included outside Australia.

Abhinaya nrita (Authentic Hindu music/Hindu melody)
Bluebird (Tschaikowsky)
Dance of the doll (Kiurci)
Dance of the doll (Salvado)
Dance of the hours (Ponchielli)
Danse russe/Russian dance (Bakalienikoff)
Etude plastique (Liszt)
Grand pas classique (Deldevez)
(Grand) pas hongrois classique (Glazounoff)
Guitana/La gitana (Salvado)
Ice maiden (Grieg)
Indian tribal dance (Minkus)
Japanese dances (Original Japanese music)
L’oiseau (Schumann)
Magyar tanc/dance (Bartok)
Mexican dance (Padilla)
Negro fire-worship dance (Stempinsky)
Nocturne (Schumann)
Pas de fleurs (Tschaikowsky)
Pizzicato (Gillet)
Spanish character dance (Romero)
Spanish dance (Albeniz)
Spanish dance (Granados)
Tarantella (Rossini)
The faun (Debussy)
The love song (Kreisler)
Toreador Spanish dance (Julio Garson)
Trepak (Launitz)
Valse (Fetras)
Valse (Strauss)
Valse brilliante (Chopin)
Voices of spring (Strauss)

***********************************

Below is a list of dancers who performed during the Australian leg of the tour, Appendix C of the Dance Research article.

APPENDIX C: DANCERS PERFORMING IN AUSTRALIA
Press reports on the arrival of the company in Australia noted that it comprised 36 dancers. (‘The Russian Ballet arrival in Sydney’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 1934, p. 12). Listed below, with some explanatory notes, are those whose names I have found appearing on programs or mentioned in the press, adding up to less than 36 dancers.

Women:
Olga Spessiva (Brisbane and Sydney) and Natasha Bojkovich with
Kathleen Crofton, Lisa Elem, Juliana Enakieff, Tamara Djakelly (Giakelly), Eileen Keegan, Raia Kuznetzova, Molly Lake, Eleanora Marra, Lola Michel,* Anna Northcote, Elvira Rone, Christine Rosslyn, Vera Sevna, Edna Tresahar,** Audrey Valeska.

Molly Lake. Photo: Personal archive of Anna Northcote (Severskaya), private collection
Molly Lake in her dressing room. Photo: Personal archive of Anna Northcote, private collection

Men:
Anatole Vilzak, Stanley Judson, Paul (Pavel) Petroff, H. Algeranoff and Dimitri Rostoff with Jan Kowsky (Leon Kellaway), Travis Kemp, Slava Toumine, A. Piekers, George Zorich.***

Stanley Judson. Photo: Personal archive of Anna Northcote (Severskaya), private collection
Anatole Vilzak. Photo: Personal archive of Anna Northcote (Severskaya), private collection

Principal dancers Stanley Judson (left) and Anatole Vilzak (right). Photos: Personal archive of Anna Northcote (Severskaya), private collection

* The name Lisa Mitchell is mentioned in a review (‘Ballets of beauty’, Courier Mail (Brisbane), 15 October 1934, p. 21) but not in cast lists in programs. I have assumed the review is a misspelling of Lola Michel, a name that does appear in cast lists and reviews.
** The Sydney Morning Herald mentions an Edna Tresabel (‘The Russian Ballet. Arrival in Sydney. Olga Spessiva and her company’. The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 1934, p. 12). I have not been able to find another reference to Tresabel and have assumed it to be a misspelling of Edna Tresahar.
***George Zorich spelled his second name Zoritch in his memoirs. It was always Zorich in programs for this company.

The following dancers are listed in various South African newspaper sources but did not appear in Australia in 1934–1935: Vera Nemchinova, Anatole Oboukhoff, L. Kutchurovsky (Katshrovsky), Nicolai Zvereff. Marina Grut also mentions that Nana Gollner and Yvonne Blake performed in South Africa (Selma Jeanne Cohen (ed), International Encylopedia of Dance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), Vol. 5, p. 650.

A photo of Otto Kruger appears in Brisbane programs but this name never appears in cast lists in the programs.

***********************************

The material contained in these appendices should not be considered as necessarily complete or definitive at this stage. Any additions or corrections, preferably with sources cited, are welcome. Other online material about the tour is at this tag: Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet.

All textual material contained in these appendices and in the article is the intellectual property of The Society for Dance Research and should not be reproduced without permission. Full bibliographic details.

Michelle Potter, 23 September 2013

Featured image: Finale, Les Sylphides, Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, ca. 1934. Personal archive of Anna Northcote, private collection

Finale, 'Les Sylphides', Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, ca. 1934

The image below is labelled ‘Lisa … Carnival’ in Anna Northcote’s photo album. It is possibly the Lisa Mitchell/Lola Michel/Lisa Mulchelkans/Elisa Mutschelkmans mentioned in the list of dancers above and in the comment from David Sumray below.

Lisa (Mitchell?). Photo: Personal archive of Anna Northcote, private collection

Athol Willoughby. An oral history

Earlier in February I had the pleasure of recording an oral history interview with Athol Willoughby, former dancer with the National Theatre Ballet and other companies, and an esteemed Melbourne-based ballet teacher over several decades.

Tasmanian-born, Willoughby first took up ballet in Hobart with Beattie Jordan but soon moved to Melbourne to further his training at the National Theatre Ballet School under the direction of Lucie Saronova. Saronova played a particularly significant role in the early days of the Cecchetti Society in Australia and Willoughby recalls her fondly and discusses her teaching and her role in Australian dance history throughout the interview.
Saronova story webWilloughby joined the National Theatre Ballet in 1952 and worked with two directors of that company—Walter Gore and Valrene Tweedie. Following a stint in the United Kingdom, where he took classes from a range of well-known teachers including Anna Northcote and Stanislas Idzikowski and performed with Western Theatre Ballet, he came back to Melbourne and devoted himself to teaching. He returned to the professional stage twice with the Australian Ballet—in a revival of Anne Woolliams’ Swan Lake, and as one of Clara’s émigré friends in Graeme Murphy’s Nutcracker: the story of Clara.

'Swan Lake' Act 1, NTB 1955 or 1956Naeidra Torrens, Noelle Aitken and Athol Willoughby in Swan Lake Act I pas de trois,  final pose. National Theatre Ballet, 1955 or 1956. Photo: Walter Stringer

Willoughby has always maintained strong connections with the Cecchetti Society. He taught Cecchetti technique, is a holder of the Cecchetti Diploma and was one of the most senior examiners for the Cecchetti movement in Australia. He also prepared a number of now highly-respected Cecchetti examiners for their role as examiners, namely Sandra Allen, Lorraine Blackbourn, Anne Butler, Sandra Clack, Carole Oliver and Jennifer Stielow.

The interview is significant from so many points of view. In particular, it contains considerable background to and information about the National Theatre Ballet, a company that has been somewhat neglected, I think, in present day Australian dance scholarship. The interview is also full of delightful anecdotes about life as a dancer and about the personalities with whom Willoughby came into contact in Australia and elsewhere!

The catalogue entry for the interview on the National Library of Australia’s catalogue is at this link. I hope in due course it will be made available as an online resource. It is well worth listening to and highlights how important oral history is in the recording of Australia’s dance history. So much of what interviewees give us through the medium of the oral history interview will never be recorded in any other way.

All photos reproduced are from the personal collection of Athol Willoughby.

Michelle Potter, 25 February 2013

Featured image: Valrene Tweedie and Athol Willoughby in Le Coq d’or. National Theatre Ballet, 1955. Photo: Walter Stringer

Tankard bannerHOW TO ORDER

‘It brought back so many memories’—Jill Sykes
This book is also available through the National Library of Australia’s bookshop and to library clients through James Bennett Library Services

Ludmilla Schollar in Australia

In his memoir Ballet mystique, George Zoritch remarks that Ludmilla Schollar accompanied her husband, Anatole Vilzak, to Australia on the 1934–1935 tour by the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet. Vilzak was the leading male dancer for a major part of that tour performing main roles in Java, Australia, Ceylon, India and Egypt. In Australia he partnered Olga Spessivtseva in Brisbane and Sydney, and then, following Spessivtseva’s departure, Natasha Bojkovich in Melbourne and Perth. But Schollar?

Schollar was a dancer of renown in her own right having graduated from the Imperial Theatre School in St Petersburg in 1906. She had danced at the Maryinsky Theatre and with Diaghilev and later with Ida Rubinstein’s company and with Bronislava Nijinska.

schollar-and-vilzak-carnavalLudmilla Schollar and Anatole Vilzak in ‘Carnaval’, postcard ca. 1920 National Library of Australia. Published with permission

There is no record, however, of her having performed in Australia or elsewhere on the Dandré-Levitoff tour. Other than Zoritch’s comments, the only mention of Schollar in relation to the tour that I had been able to find was on a passenger list in the issue of 27 September 1934 of the Dutch newspaper De Locomotief (published in Semarang, Java). A ‘Mrs Anatole Vilzak’  is listed as being on board the ship that was taking the Dandré-Levitoff company from Surabaya to Brisbane.

However, two photographs in the personal archive of Anna Northcote were recently brought to my attention. Neither photograph has any form of identification associated with it but they appear to show Schollar with others from the Dandré-Levitoff company. The photographs may have been taken in Australia in Melbourne or Perth. The dancers in Swan Lake costume in the line-up on stage are, I think, Vilzak and Bojkovich, which suggests that the photographs probably post-date Sydney where it was usually Spessivtseva who danced Odette. My identification of those in the photos is tentative at this stage and I would welcome any further information or comments.

launitz-and-othersL-R: Vladimir Launitz (conductor and musical director), Anatole Vilzak, Ludmilla Schollar, Natasha Bojkovich, unidentified gentleman. Personal archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya). Private collection.

schollar-in-dressingroomLudmilla Schollar with Vladimir Launitz standing behind her. Personal archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya). Private collection.

My extended article on the full 1934–1935 tour by the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet will be published shortly in Dance Research, Vol. 29 (No. 1, Summer 2011) pp. 61–96.

Michelle Potter, 14 April 2011

‘Polovtsian Dances’ by the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet

In a post in September 2009 I queried various aspects of an image held in the National Library of Australia’s Pictures Collection. The image is attributed to Axel Poignant, although I indirectly questioned this attribution as the photograph appears to have been a gift to Poignant from the Dandré-Levitoff company in recognition of the work he did with them in Perth. Why, I wondered, would the company be giving back to Poignant a print of his own image?

Since September 2009 I have been pursuing research into the extensive touring schedule of the Dandré-Levitoff company and was fortunate enough to be given access to archival material belonging to the family of Anna Northcote (Severskaya). Amongst photographic material in this collection I came across the photograph reproduced below:

Final position, 'Prince Igor'. Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, 1934-1935.  Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Personal Archive. Private Collection
Final position, 'Prince Igor'. Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, 1934-1935. Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Personal Archive. Private Collection

This seems to me to be very similar, if not the same, as the image held by the National Library. Perhaps most interesting of all, however, is that a very similar image, perhaps in relation to the action of the ballet taken slightly before the one reproduced above, appeared in an advertisement in Cape Town, where the company performed between 18 May and 9 June 1934, well before arriving in Australia.

Could it be that the image in Northcote’s collection and that appearing in the Cape Town advertisement are both publicity shots taken either in Cape Town, or earlier before the company’s arrival in South Africa? Given that the South African advertisement shot is slightly different, the alternative of course is that the company did give back to Poignant a print of his image with their signatures on the back as a memento of the occasion, and that the dancers were each given a copy as well (or bought one)? If this is the case, Northcote’s archive, which contains a number of performance shots, may well include other images by Poignant.

I am still not convinced, however,  that the image of the final moment of ‘Polovtsian Dances’ was shot by Poignant, but I would love to be proved wrong.

This is the link to the original post . I am not permitted to display the National Library’s image on this site so readers will need to follow the Library’s catalogue link to compare the two images.

Michelle Potter, 13 February 2011

Alexander Levitoff. Impresario

During my research into the year-long tour by the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet between 1934 and 1935, the name Alexander Levitoff loomed large. Unlike Victor Dandré, who did not join the tour until the company had reached Java in mid September 1934, Levitoff sailed from Southampton with the Russian Ballet dancers on the R. M. S. Kenilworth Castle on 27 April 1934. His name appears on the passenger list when the Kenilworth Castle arrived in Cape Town on 14 May 1934 for the beginning of the South African leg of the tour. Throughout South Africa the Russian Ballet was promoted as being presented by Levitoff, as the poster in the photograph below, taken in Durban in June 1934, indicates. Yet information about Levitoff and his activities, both during the tour and beyond it, has proved elusive, as has the exact professional relationship between him and Dandré.

Alexander Levitoff in Durban, June 1934. Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Personal Archive. Private Collection
Alexander Levitoff in Durban, June 1934. Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Personal Archive. Private Collection

Recently, however, information about Levitoff has come to light in files held by the National Archives of Australia, some of which were made accessible only in January 2011. Combined with some correspondence between Levitoff and the English dancer Algeranoff, and the personal archive of Anna Northcote (Severskaya), another English dancer who performed with the Dandré-Levitoff company, it is possible to begin to piece together some biographical information about Levitoff. Although some reports refer to him as ‘a native of Moscow’, documents completed by Levitoff when he arrived in Australia on a number of occasions from 1934 onwards as an ‘alien passenger’ indicate that he was born in 1891 in Tiflis (present day Tbilisi, Georgia). On these documents he gives his profession as ‘impresario’ and this description also appears on his personal stationery immediately underneath his name. The immigration documents also record, where ‘nationality’ is requested, that he was ‘stateless’ and that both his parents were born in Russia.

Levitoff lived in Paris from at least the early 1930s at 5 rue de Boudreau. It was from Paris that he issued Northcote (and presumably other dancers) with a contract for the Dandré-Levitoff tour. But he appears to have led a peripatetic life as an impresario following the Dandré-Levitoff tour, working between the northern and southern hemispheres. His personal stationery during the 1940s and early 1950s gives his address as ‘formerly 5 rue de Boudreau’ and lists his places of business as ‘Sydney, Auckland, Paris’. He brought a number of artists and companies to Australia and New Zealand during the late 1930s and into the 1940s including the Don Cossack Choir, pianist Isador Goodman, and soprano Ninon Vallin. He announced many other theatrical plans although a significant proportion of those plans appear not to have been realised. In the mid 1940s he was involved in a legal dispute with a Sydney sponsor and was eventually ordered to repay monies advanced to him.

In Sydney, at least for part of 1939, he lived in what Tamara Tchinarova Finch describes in her memoirs as ‘chic poverty in a small back room of the Hotel Australia’. Finch also records that Levitoff persuaded her and some of her colleagues who had remained in Australia in 1939 at the end of the tour by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet to give some matinee performances in the city of Newcastle, north of Sydney. She writes:

‘He made an agreement with us that he would pay us each ten pounds a performance and keep the rest of the box-office himself. It was a roaring success; the theatre was chock-a-block with wide-eyed youngsters. At the end of the three days, Levitoff, now a few hundred pounds richer, was easily able to pay off his pressing bills.’

He may also have had connections with Ballet nationale, a company founded in Sydney in the late 1930s by Leon Kellaway, another dancer with the Dandré-Levitoff company. Kellaway joined the Dandré-Levitoff company when they arrived in Brisbane in October 1934 and danced under the name Jan Kowsky (Kowskiy). He remained in Australia when the company left for Ceylon in January 1935.

By 1942, however, Levitoff had moved to Melbourne where he lived in the salubrious suburb of Toorak. Between 1942 and 1945 he worked as Canteen Manager with the Department of Munitions at the High Explosives and Ordnance Factory, Marybrynong, and in 1945 he applied for, and was granted, Australian (Commonwealth) citizenship. In one document he intimated that, as a stateless person, travelling overseas was not easy and that having citizenship would allow him to travel more easily in the ‘Dominions’. In support of his citizenship application he noted his good character while working at Marybrynong and noted that as an impresario it was his practice to require the artists whom he engaged to give two charity concerts for some worthy cause. A clipping from an unidentified New Zealand newspaper notes that a concert by Isador Goodman in Wellington raised £1020 for the Metropolitan Patriotic Fund.

Levitoff was still at his Toorak address in May 1950 but by the mid 1950s he was back in Paris where he died in 1957. His obituary in Dance News notes that he was survived by his wife about whom I have as yet been unable to find information.

© Michelle Potter, 21 January 2011

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Personal Archive. Private Collection
  • Papers of Harcourt Algeranoff, MS 2376, National Library of Australia
  • Various documents relating to Alexander Levitoff, National Archives of Australia
  • Tamara Finch, Dancing into the unknown (Alton: Dance Books, 2007)
  • ‘Obituary: Alexander Levitoff’, Dance News, February 1958, p. 7
Balinese dance performance, 1934

Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet. The Balinese interlude

I have been curious for some time about an alleged visit to Bali by the dancers of the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet following their departure from Surabaya on 28 September 1934 bound for Brisbane. Anton Dolin in The Sleeping Ballerina records that in Bali ‘there was time for Olga [Spessivtseva] to visit the many temples and see the dances of Bali, which interested her profoundly’. But hard evidence of this visit has seemed non-existent, until now.

English dancer Anna Northcote had been part of this touring company from its beginnings early in 1934 when the dancers assembled in Paris to rehearse parts of their repertoire with Alexandra Fedorova and Mikhail Fokine. She records her experiences in Paris in an article written in the magazine MOVE in 1970. But it is her photograph album that is of particular interest in the Balinese context. It shows quite clearly that the dancers did indeed visit Bali—Northcote gives the date as 29 September 1934—and were present at one or more performances of Balinese dance. Her album contains several pages of photographs from Bali, most of which record an outdoor performance under the shade of a large banyan tree. In some Spessivtseva can be seen in the background, dressed in white with her dark hair parted in the middle and pulled back in its signature style, absorbed in taking photographs herself.

Balinese dance performance for the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, 1934. Personal Archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Private Collection
Balinese dance performance for the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet, 1934. Personal Archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Private Collection

The exact location of these photographs is hard to pinpoint. The London Illustrated News for 21 March 1931 contains images taken in what appears to be the same location and notes that the performance recorded in the magazine’s  photographs took place ‘in the village of Kedaton’.  This is more than likely an error as kedaton is a variant spelling of kraton meaning ‘palace’ and both the performance in The London Illustrated News and that photographed by Northcote probably took place in the temple courtyard of a royal palace somewhere on the northern coastline of Bali, probably Singaraja.

At the time the dancers visited Bali, the town of Singaraja was the Dutch colonial administrative centre for Bali and the Lesser Sunda Islands. It was the port of arrival for most visitors who, if they visited the southern region, usually did so by road. Moreover, the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet travelled to Brisbane on the Nieuw Holland a ship of the Dutch KPM line. It was the KPM line that initiated the first tourist passages to Bali initially on its cargo ships, which regularly visited Singaraja anchoring at its port of Buleleng.*

Northcote’s album also contains an image of three Legong dancers taken in what seems to be a different location suggesting that the dancers may well have seen more than one performance.

Legong dancers. Personal Archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Private Collection
Legong dancers. Personal Archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Private Collection

The Balinese interlude continues to invite questions and needs further research. But now it is certain that the dancers called at Bali after boarding the Nieuw Holland in Surabaya.

© Michelle Potter, 9–10 December 2010

*Colin McPhee in his book A House in Bali (1947) mentions a village called Kedaton in the Den Pasar region. But it does not seem likely that the dancers would have had time to take the then arduous road trip from Singaraja to Den Pasar and back, given Bali was a stopover rather than a final destination for the ship (and assuming that the Nieuw Holland was following its usual route and anchored in Buleleng harbour).

The dancers did, however, visit part of Bali beyond the coastline as Northcote’s album again indicates. Her photograph entitled ‘Valleys and volcanoes’, with its steeply terraced rice fields, is typical of the countryside immediately to the south of the northern Balinese coastline.

'Valleys and volcanoes', 1934. Personal Archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Private Collection
‘Valleys and volcanoes’, 1934. Personal Archive, Anna Northcote (Severskaya), Private Collection

Information on the company’s touring activities in Java immediately prior to their Balinese visit is in a previous post: Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet: Indonesia, September 1934