Roshanara (Olive Craddock, 1894-1926) is today remembered as the more authentic competitor to Ruth St. Denis in the presentation of South Asian dances to Western audiences. While St. Denis is certainly the better known exponent of Indian movement styles and techniques in popular culture, Craddock (though Anglo) had actually grown up in India, and studied with South Asian teachers. Her stage name was an homage to Mughal princess Rochanara Begum.
Craddock was about 16 when she moved with her family to Britain. There she studied with Spanish dancer Carmen Tórtola Valencia, who had performed at the Folies Bergère and the Wintergarten in Berlin. In the early teens she danced with the companies of Loie Fuller, Anna Pavlova, and the Ballet Russes, and was in productions of Kismet and Scheherezade. (In related news, Roshanara happens to share a birthday with Balanchine).
Roshanara began her first tour of the American vaudeville circuits in 1916. On Broadway she appeared in the shows Yvette (1916) with John Ransone and Chapine, Sinbad (1918) with Al Jolson, and the 1924 edition of The Greenwich Village Follies. In 1919 the Ashcan artist Robert Henri painted her portrait. Though she never opened a school and built a company like St. Denis, she did take on students. One of them during these years was a young Bette Davis. Roshanara was only 32 when she was killed by a burst appendix at the artist colony in Asheville, North Carolina.
For more on vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.
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