New dances! New songs! New specialties! These were essential to the success of every show. Besides all the shades of Loie Fuller, popular dances included the cakewalk, as well as acrobatic, contortion and national dances.
While dance didn't yet have the stage to itself, appearing as it did as one part of an evening's entertainment, it was often deemed worthy of notice. When the Calhoun Opera Company mounted The Black Hussar at the Vancouver Opera House in 1894, for instance, the World reported on January 23: “The march of the ballet, attired as Black Hussars, was very well conducted and ... had to be repeated to satisfy the audience. The sabot dance was a novelty and was very well done; it had to be repeated as had also the skirt dance.”
The next month, the Opera House presented M.B. Leavitt's spectacular production, Spider and Fly, with dancers from the Folies-Bergère. According to the World on February 17: “The ballet was well trained and embraced some shapely forms and some pleasant features.... The electric dance of Miss Henrietta Rosch was a novelty to Vancouverites, and a reappearance was demanded.”
Spider and Fly, a popular burlesque production of the time, returned half a decade later. The Province's preview on March 29, 1899 quoted the Seattle Times (quoting American papers as previews was common practice): “The banjo song and dance of Ethel Thornton was among the very enjoyable things of the evening. Valetta, the volcanic little dancer, made a decided hit.... There were choruses, ballets, Amazon marches galore....” The review the following day, however, declared: “The production calls for really harsh criticism, because a great many of the people in it are quite clever and yet they managed to spoil good acts by vulgarity, if not actual indecency.” The costumes were just too brief! (next page)
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