Valentin Zeglovsky. Further Australian notes

During August I spent some time investigating the spelling of Valentin Zeglovsky’s name and posted some results under the title ‘Valentin Zeglovsky: some Australian notes’. It was a somewhat esoteric exercise but it did yield other information about Zeglovsky, of which I was not previously aware. So for me it was a worthwhile excursion, although it did envelop Zeglovsky in further mystery.

  • Place of birth

I mentioned in the previous post that Zeglovsky completed the various procedures to become a permanent resident in Australia and to acquire the status of a British subject. One document that was part of that process contains a short but closely packed, typewritten section entitled ‘General Remarks’. The document, dated 11 December 1945, was typed not by Zeglovsky but by a public servant from information provided by Zeglovsky. Under ‘General Remarks’ the document states, in part: ‘Applicant states that his birthplace is Riga Latvia not Kharkov as per Declaration. Passport verified this statement’. This is interesting because in his autobiography, Ballet Crusade, Zeglovsky records that he was born on 26 July 1908 in Kharkov.

  • Ballet Crusade

Zeglovsky’s account of his life from birth to the early 1940s was published by Reed & Harris as Valentin Zeglovsky’s Ballet Crusade in December 1943 with a reprint in 1944. Ballet Crusade‘s title page (at least for the 1944 reprint) says ‘translated from the Russian’, although no acknowledgement of the translator is given. However, letters from Valrene Tweedie written in the 1940s from Cuba to her friend in Sydney, Marnie Martin, indicate that Martin had been working with Zeglovsky on a book, which Tweedie confirmed before her death in 2008 was Ballet Crusade. Martin had been an extra during the Ballets Russes visits to Australia and remained a lifelong friend of Tweedie. From the letters it appears she was quite close to Zeglovsky — Tweedie frequently ends her letters to Martin with a greeting to ‘Valentin’ as well. It was also Martin’s GPO box address that Zeglovsky used on most of his applications to the patent’s office mentioned in my earlier post. I have no evidence that Martin was a Russian speaker but I suspect that ‘translated from the Russian’ may have been a euphemistic way of indicating that the book owed much to Martin. Tweedie maintained in fact that it was ghost written, at least in part, by Martin.

  • Work life in Australia

Tamara Finch in her autobiography, Dancing into the unknown, records the initial efforts by those Ballets Russes artists who remained in Australia in 1939 at the conclusion of the Covent Garden Russian Ballet tour to find work for themselves in Australia. Her account explains that a small company, which included Zeglovsky, formed to give recitals but disbanded in 1940 after the venture proved unsuccessful. It was probably around this time that Zeglovsky settled in Sydney and began teaching and dancing with various companies. The ‘General Remarks’ on his naturalisation application state:  ‘At the outbreak of war applicant under engagement to J. C. Williamson and travel led all over the Commonwealth’.

Briefly, Zeglovsky danced and travelled with the Kirsova Ballet and danced some seasons with the Borovansky Ballet. In 1942–1943 he also performed in the J. C. Williamson revival of the popular musical White Horse Inn, which opened in Sydney in December 1942. This aspect of Zeglovsky’s Australian career will be the subject of another post.

However his naturalisation papers reveal that he also worked in decidely non-dancing jobs. The same ‘General Remarks’ mentioned above record: ‘Late in 1943 commenced work as a cement worker at the Captain Cook Graving Dock, Sydney’. And a little further on: ‘Applicant states that he is a fully qualified diamond tool setter’.

  • Marriage

On immigration documents relating to Zeglovky’s arrival in Australia with the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938, he lists his status as married and his wife’s name is given as Mia. Later documents completed by Zeglovsky and held in the National Archives of Australia indicate that Mia was born in 1910 in Riga and that she was living in Tel Aviv, Palestine, when Zeglovsky applied for naturalisation. Mia Arbatova is mentioned on several occasions in Ballet Crusade and, although in the 1940s Zeglovsky continues to state that he is married, sources such as the Jewish Women’s Archive indicate that Arbatova and Zeglovsky, who were dance partners and who are said to have married in 1933, divorced in 1937.

Zeglovsky married dancer Pamela Nell Bromley-Smith in Sydney in 1949 according to the New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Bromley-Smith appeared as the Daughter in La Concurrence with the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in its Sydney season in December 1938. Her name appears on a program dated 17 December 1938 and a photograph (not in costume for La Concurrence but in an exotic two piece fringed and beaded costume) appeared in the Evening Post from Wellington, New Zealand, on 6 February 1939 with the caption ‘Pamela Bromley-Smith, aged 10 years, who was engaged in Sydney to dance the child role in “La Convenience” [sic], a performance by the Russian Ballet. Pamela is from the Dolee Brooks School of Dancing and holds her intermediate dancer’s diploma for operatic dancing in Australia …’. The performing arts gateway AusStage records that she appeared in a number of productions at the Minerva and Independent Theatres in Sydney in the 1940s.

Ziggy, as he was apparently known in the Ballets Russes, continues to fascinate!

© Michelle Potter, 4 September 2010

Featured image: Zeglovsky in Cimarosiana reproduced from the Geoffrey Ingram Archive of Australia Ballet with permission of the National Library of Australia.

Maurice Seymour: Valentin Zeglovsky in ‘Cimarosiana’, ca. 1936

Valentin Zeglovsky. Some Australian notes

Some recent correspondence with a friend of the family of the Ballets Russes dancer Valentin Zeglovsky sent me in search of further information. I was curious in the first instance about Zeglovsky’s name as it seems to have had a number of variant spellings. While this is not surprising in the context of the Ballets Russes, where names were changed for stage purposes and often Russianised for maximum theatrical effect, the Zeglovsky situation was a little different.  There is no doubt that his stage name was Valentin Zeglovsky as this name appears on programs for the Covent Garden Russian Ballet season in Australia as well as in programs for seasons by the Borovansky Ballet and the Kirsova Ballet, in which Zeglovsky danced after he elected to remain in Australian at the end of the season by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1939. But online references to documents held in the National Archives of Australia consistently indicated that his name was Valentins Zeglovskis. The family, however, while acknowledging his stage name regarded Valentin Zeglovskis as his ‘real’ name and believed that Valentins was a misnomer.

Portrait of Valentin Zeglovsky, 1940s. Photographer unknown. Courtesy National Library of Australia, Geoffrey Ingram Archive of Australian Ballet. Reproduced with permission.

Examination of the hard copy records in the Archives revealed an interesting situation. During his time in Australia, Zeglovsky spent some of his time teaching in Sydney. He set up a school in a studio in the house in which he lived in Macdonald Street, Potts Point, in the early 1940s. From there he submitted four patent applications to the Sydney office of the Commonwealth of Australia’s Registrar of Copyrights. The applications were for four ballets, The Red Poppy, Les Amoreux, Miralda and  Morning Noon and Night. They were probably never realised but the libretti were submitted and approved between late 1942 and mid 1943. On these applications the name Valentins Zeglovskis appears quite clearly both in typewritten and handwritten form, including as an official signature. Not only that, Zeglovsky applied to be naturalised in 1945 and this was achieved in 1946. On naturalisation documents held by the Archives, including copies of newspaper declarations of his intent to seek naturalisation, his name appears as Valentins Zeglovskis. It seems that this situation remained until his Australian passport, issued in 1949, was cancelled and his naturalisation certificate returned to the Department of Immigration in Canberra in 1954 from the London office of the High Commissioner for Australia. In 1954 he registered as a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. So for some reason he clearly wanted to be known officially, at least in Australia, as Valentins Zeglovskis.

While names will always be somewhat capricious, especially in the situation in which Zeglovsky found himself during his years in Australia, research into those archival documents revealed other fascinations about the life of a dancer in Australia in the 1940s. They will be the subject of a future post.

© Michelle Potter, 19 August 2010