Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Russian Ballet in Australia in the 1930's

Tamara Toumanova dancing at Bungan Beach, one of Sydney's Northern Beaches (1939-40)

Serge de Diaghilev died in 1929 and his famed Ballet Russe company dissipated. But it was soon re-constructed in a number of new companies, each claiming to the carriers of the legendary tradition.

Three of these companies toured Australia during the 1930’s: '(Colonel W. de Basil's) Monte Carlo Russian Ballet' (1936-7), 'Covent Garden Russian Ballet, presented by Educational Ballets Ltd' (1938-9) and 'The Original Ballet Russe' (1939-40). All were under the aegis of Colonel W. de Basil.

A number of the performances, informal practice sessions and general horsing round during these tours were recorded as home movies by Ewan Murray-Will ...

... notably (in the 1938-39 tour) Tamara Toumanova (the 'Black Pearl' of the Baby Ballerinas) playing at practising at Bungan Beach, one of Sydney's northern beaches ...

... Tamara Toumanova and Serge Lifar similarly practising in a garden ...

... and an unidentified male dancer having (mostly) fun at the water's edge ...

These legendary dancers suddenly seem more real - away from the stage and being informal and silly ... and in my own back yard!


  1. Your penchan for the classics is admirable. One noble lady of the opera, though, needs your attention. Self financed, self promoted, she performed at Carnegie Hall. The Exceptional, coleatura soprano, Florence Foster Jenkins, sang in the 1930's-1940's. Her Lakme (Aire des clochettes) was excrutiating. She is again available on CD. You gotta hear her!

  2. nick...the male dancer on the beach is actually quite good...he does many of the classical ballet moves.

    doug...los angeles

  3. hey doug

    good to hear from you

    yeah, he seems quite technically proficient

    often on tour, legendary companies of yesteryear took on less than great dancers for the other than principal roles - like Pavlova did on her many global perambulations

    but this dancer is good so i'm wondering who he is - so blurry it could even be someone quite well-known!



  4. hey anon

    Florence Foster Jenkins sounds a bit like the basis of a character in 'citizen cane' - the wife of the main character - the movie of course was based on william randolph hearst's life - tho his own wife, the actress marion davies, wasn't a lousy actress - LOL

    i'm off to google Florence Foster Jenkins - so thanks for the pointer in her direction!