Today is the birthday of the great Russian-born ballerina Lydia Lopokova (1892-1981). She danced with the Tsar’s troupe (she’d been the star pupil of the Imperial Ballet School), then with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, then solo in America in touring vaudeville, where she was considered a novelty act. Many were the greats with whom her life was to intertwine: Heywood Broun, Stravinsky, Picasso, etc etc etc. In the 20s she made London her home base, where she socialized with the Bloomsbury Group and married economist John Maynard Keynes. A very public person in the earlier decades of the twentieth century, after her husband’s illness (in 1937) and death (1946) she pirouetted out of public view. Today, she is considered one of the founders of the English ballet.
To find out more about the vaudeville past and present, including ballet greats like Lydia Lopokova, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.