Olga Spessivtseva. Leaving Australia

Inspired by a comment on my August 2010 post regarding Olga Spessivtseva in Australia, I went back to that amazing National Library of Australia resource, Trove, and began looking again for passenger lists around the end of 1934 that might contain the names Olga Spessiva or Leonard G Braun.

It appears that Spessivtseva and Braun left Sydney on board the London-bound R. M. S Orama, a ship of the Orient line, on 22 December 1934. A passenger list including both names appears in The Sydney Morning Herald for that day. The ship passed through Fremantle on 31 December and news of Spessivtseva’s departure was reported in The West Australian on 1 January 1935 in a brief article headed ‘A famous dancer. Olga Spessiva leaves Australia’. In that article the story of the injured leg surfaces again with the reporter noting that her withdrawal from the company was the result of ‘An injury to her left leg, occasioned through over-work’. The article also reports that Spessivtseva was anxious to return to Australia ‘with the object of establishing a school of instruction and of producing ballet with entirely Australian casts’!

What makes this information particularly interesting, however, is that there was almost a full month between the last Sydney performance by the Dandré-Levitoff company on 28 November and the sailing date of 22 December. What did Spessivtseva and Braun do during that time? It appears on the one hand that the Blue Mountains story discussed in a previous post may indeed have a grain of truth, and also that Algeranoff’s information about Spessivtseva having already left by 2 December, also discussed previously, is wrong. Do we assume that there was an effort to cover-up what appears to have been more than an injured leg not only to the press but even to other members of the company?

Michelle Potter, 27 September 2010

With many thanks to Boris Fedoff for spurring me on to keep looking. Read his comment about Spessivtseva and her early departure from a US tour. And here is the full tag archive relating to Spessivtseva and the Dandré-Levitoff Russian Ballet tour to Australia.

4 thoughts on “Olga Spessivtseva. Leaving Australia

  1. I know this comment is a bit late-in-the day, but I think your supposition that the Company was not told the truth is the most likely one, especially in view of Dandre’s attitude towards any kind of scandal in the days of the Pavlova Company – every effort was made to ensure that Madame’s reputation and that of her dancers was untainted.

    From existing evidence, especially that of Algeranoff, Dandre seems to have been a kind man – it would, I think, have been in character for him to do what was necessary to ensure that any rumours about Spessivtseva did not reach the press, to spare both Spessivtseva herself and the Company’s finances, as it would really not have been good publicity for it to be known that the star of the Company had suffered a breakdown.

  2. Thank you, and it’s never too late! The Spessivtseva posts (and the Spessivtseva tag) remain popular according to statistical analysis despite the fact that most were written a couple of years ago now.

  3. Reading all of your writings about Spessivtseva again, one feels that it must have been an awful added pressure for her to have the ghost of Pavlova hovering around her – I mean, the comparisons in the Press, favourable though they all are, can’t have helped anyone with a fragile emotional make-up (I’m assuming this filtered back to her). After all, no-one wants to be the dancer most like Pavlova, the one most able to take Pavlova’s place (Dandre gave some interviews in that vein), especially so soon after Pavlova’s death. When it’s hard enough for someone to retain a sense of their own self, their own worth, having a Rebecca-like figure in the shadows can’t have been good for her emotional state. And then having the publicity for the Australian tour built around her – there must have been so much upon her shoulders, and it takes a strong spirit to cope with it all. One feels only a sense of wonder that she was able to cope with the demands of the tour for as long as she did.

  4. Yes, it was no doubt a load to carry. There is so much more about Spessivtseva to discover though. Although at the time I didn’t have time to investigate fully the material in the Paris Opera archives, what struck me most strongly was that she seemed constantly to be embroiled in disagreements with the administration over various issues. A very complex lady.

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