Navy Night, Sydney, October 1913: Genée dances the hornpipe

For anyone who lives in Sydney, there’s no doubt that the fleet’s in town with round the clock news of the centenary celebrations marking the first entry to the harbour of the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet on 4 October 1913.

But something happened in 1913 that definitely isn’t happening in 2013 – a dance performance in which the most famous ballerina of her age danced a hornpipe in honour of the new Australian Navy.

On 7 October, 1913, the management of Her Majesty’s Theatre presented a Navy Night performance in which Adeline Genée danced her usual party piece from Coppelia, and then a hornpipe that she performed in front of a giant Australian flag as the backdrop.

Genée’s biographer, Ivor Guest, wrote that the hornpipe was a last minute suggestion by the theatre manager that she dance a “nautical number”.

The manager was the firm of J C Williamson Ltd – a company that never failed to grab every marketing opportunity.

Genée’s friend, D.G. MacLennan, an authority on British national dances, had taught her the hornpipe that she had previously performed, and on the Australian and New Zealand tour of 1913, she had brought her hornpipe costume with her.

J C Williamson Ltd’s directors were hard taskmasters. The company’s contract with GenĂ©e in 1913 was for a tour of Australia and New Zealand for a minimum of 20 weeks, with seven performances a week and payment of ÂŁ400 a week.

She sailed into Sydney Harbour on the liner Makura, on 6 June, 1913 and was greeted by cameramen taking news footage of her walking on the deck, and by reporters eager to catch a glimpse and perhaps interview the dancer billed by J C Williamson Ltd in newspaper advertising as “The Ideal of Our Age” and “The World’s Greatest Dancer”.

The Sydney Morning Herald published a two-column article on Genée on 9 June.

Headlined A Famous Dancer, the report by an unnamed reporter (no bylines in those days) described GenĂ©e as a “dainty little lady with a radiant smile and a rare charm of manner” who was cheered by a big crowd, then honoured at a supper at the city’s top restaurant, Paris House.

In the touring company, promoted as The Imperial Russian Ballet, Genée was partnered by Alexander Volinin.

The-16 week season in Australia (preceding the NZ tour) opened in Melbourne on 21 June 1913 with Coppelia. Genée danced the role of Swanilda, Volinin was Franz and Jan Zalewski was Dr Coppelius.

The only other dancers listed in the Melbourne program for Coppelia were Vlasta Novotna and Jan Kawecki dancing the Czardas.

The ballet followed The Secret of Suzanne, a one act operetta for two singers and a mime.

Ivor Guest also lists Halina Schmolz as one of the dancers on the tour.

Australian dancers from Jennie Brenan’s ballet school were recruited to make up the numbers.

At the end of the tour in Sydney, Genée was presented with a boomerang.

It was “inscribed with the hope that it might one day bring her back…”, Guest wrote, “and at a dinner given in her honour the rare compliment was paid her of naming a dish after her – Mousseline Genée Patisserie”.

3 Comments

  1. Posted October 8, 2013 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    Valerie
    What a surprise! I opened Dancelines today thinking it would be another story altogether, and here is a great story relating to the Centenary of the RAN with one of our photos of Genee. I added the Herald publication date to our Catalog. We also have a similar signed photo to the Little Michus one which is digitised, and a larger portrait of her which is not. J.C. Williamson’s may have been hard taskmasters but the 400 pounds a week was pretty lucrative compared to the average wage of 4 pounds or so a week. Two years average salary per week. No wonder artists came to the end of the world!
    Robert

  2. valerie
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    You’re right – it is a generous salary – I wonder if she had to pay anyone else’s salary or expenses from that amount per week? I’ll have another look at the contract.

  3. valerie
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    The contract states that Genee had to provide all the costumes for the tour, including the corps de ballet’s costumes, and provide music scores for “her own special ballets, namely La Danse, La Camargo and Dryad”.
    It was agreed that she be paid a royalty of two guineas for each performance of La Camargo and La Danse.
    The contract stipulated that Genee would not be paid for any rehearsals.
    It would be interesting to see J C Williamson’s contracts for the other dancers on tour. And I wonder if the students from Jennie Brenan’s ballet school were paid anything at all!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Poster for the arrival of the Royal Australian Fleet, 1913

Poster for the arrival of the Royal Australian Fleet, 1913

Adeline Genée, Sydney, 1913, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, photo by May & Mina Moore, call number P1 / 618

Adeline Genée, Sydney, 1913, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, photo by May & Mina Moore, call number P1 / 618

Adeline Genee, The Little Michus

Adeline GenĂ©e, in Andre Messager’s The Little Michus

The program for the first annual matinee production of the Royal Academy of Dancing, date unknown

The program for the first annual matinee production of the Royal Academy of Dancing, date unknown. D.G. MacLennan, who taught Genee the hornpipe, is listed as the arranger of “Authentic Scotch dances”.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June, 1913, page 3

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June, 1913, page 3