A new display of rarely seen photographs at the National Portrait Gallery
celebrates key ballet dancers from the start of the 20th Century. Studio portraits by Bassano including photographs of Adeline Genée, Anna Pavlova, and Ninette de Valois are shown alongside a newly acquired portfolio from 1913 by E.O.Hoppé and Bert of Diaghilevs star performers from Russia. Ballet in Focus, a case display of nearly 40 portraits will run from 14 December 2010 to 24 July 2011.
Ballets were a popular form of entertainment before the First World War and attracted large audiences. The home of British ballet at this time was in Londons Covent Garden and Leicester Square, where the Alhambra and Empire Theatres offered nightly performances. Adeline Genée was one of the best known classical dancers of the period and Phyllis Bedells and Ninette de Valois, founder of The Royal Ballet, among its emerging stars. In the years immediately before Diaghilevs company took London by storm, Russian dancers had already made an impact in London. Lydia Kyasht and Adolph Bolm appeared together at the Empire in 1908, two years later Anna Pavlova appeared at the Palace Theatre. In the same period, Canadian dancer Maud Allan achieved notoriety in the Vision of Salome and Olive Craddock performed exotic dances under the name of a fabled Indian princess Roshanara.
In 1911, Serge Diaghilevs sensational Ballets Russes appeared in London for the first time.The Ballets Russes added a new interest, elevated ballet artistically and restored the male dancer to equal status with the ballerina. Ballet in Focus will examine the gap between the Romantic ballet of the 19th Century and the arrival of the Ballets Russes, an often overlooked period of British theatre history.
Nearly 30 of the photographs in the display are from the once fashionable photographic studio Bassano Ltd. The National Portrait Gallery holds the surviving archive of the Bassano studio, which comprises over 40,000 whole-plate and half-plate negatives. The display also includes a newly acquired portfolio of sepia photogravures published by the Fine Art Society in 1913. Studies from the Russian Ballet by E.O.Hoppé and Bert features classic images of Diaghilev's stars including Adolph Bolm, Tamara Karsavina in The Firebird and Vaslav Nijinsky in Spectre of the Rose. Further photographs of dancers will be included in the major exhibition Hoppé Portraits: Society, Studio and Street in the Wolfson Gallery opening at the Gallery in February 2011.