New and Updated Finding Aids – Part Three

Detail from “Madam Satan” film photograph featuring Theodore Kosloff as “Electricity,” C0468, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

All collections mentioned were processed by Amanda Brent.

Martha Swope photographs of Jerome Robbins rehearsing with ballet dancers for “Antique Epigraphs”

“Two black and white photographs of Jerome Robbins rehearsing with ballet dancers for ‘Antique Epigraphs’ at the New York City Ballet, taken by Martha Swope in early 1984. Both photographs feature Robbins directing the dancers and demonstrating his choreography…Jerome Robbins was one of the foremost dancers and choreographers of the 20th century. Born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in New York City in 1918, Robbins rose to prominence in the 1940s with his choreography for a number of Broadway shows. In 1949 Robbins became the Associate Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine, cementing his place in the international ballet scene…Martha Swope was one of the most prolific dance photographers of the 20th century. Born in Texas in 1928, she originally aimed to become a professional dancer and enrolled at the School of American Ballet. In 1957 she met Jerome Robbins and they bonded over their mutual interest in photography. This led Robbins to invite Swope to photograph rehearsals for ‘West Side Story,’ which cemented Swope’s passion for dance photography. Swope photographed hundreds of theatrical productions over her career and was closely linked to many renowned people in the performing arts community, including Robbins and George Balanchine. Being a dancer herself, Swope’s photography was known for truly capturing the dancers’ movement and spirit. Swope passed away in 2017, leaving a large body of work behind her.”

Costas photograph of George Balanchine rehearsing two ballet dancers

“Matted color photograph featuring the dancer and choreographer Jerome Robbins taking a bow during rehearsals of the ballet ‘Circus Polka’ in 1972. In the foreground is Robbins, in partial ringmaster costume, bowing and gesturing to the rehearsal audience. Behind Robbins in the background are young ballet dancers. The photograph is signed by Robbins. It is also signed by Costas – the photographer – on the matte…’Circus Polka’ is a short ballet with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Jerome Robbins. The piece was originally commissioned by Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus as an act for their elephants accompanied by ballet dancers. In 1972 Robbins choreographed a showpiece to the music for the Stravinsky Festival which featured himself as the circus Ringmaster, accompanied by forty-eight young students from the School of American Ballet…Costas Cacaroukas – known by the mononym Costas – was a Greek-American dance photographer. He was the photographer in residence for the New York City Ballet for the majority of his career and was closely associated with George Balanchine.”

Friedman-Abeles photography firm photograph of prominent members of the original “West Side Story” production team

“Black and white photograph of prominent members of the original ‘West Side Story’ production team by the Friedman-Abeles photography firm, printed September 29, 1959, the year of the musical’s first U.S. Tour. The photo was originally taken in 1957, during the musical’s production. From left to right are: Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, Harold Prince, Robert E. Griffith (seated), Leonard Bernstein, and Jerome Robbins. All men had successful careers in the performing arts field…’West Side Story’ is a musical that premiered on Broadway on September 26, 1957, with music composed by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondeheim, respectively. It was conceived of, directed, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It was also produced by Harold Prince and Robert E. Griffith. The musical, set on the West Side of New York City, was inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Two rival gangs – the white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks – battle for neighborhood dominance while star-crossed lovers from each side, Tony and Maria, fall in love. The musical was a critical and commercial success, and was subsequently adapted into two separate films…Friedman-Abeles was a large photography firm in New York City, NY. Founded on the partnership of Leo and Sy Friedman and Joseph Ables, the firm was regularly tasked with photographing Broadway productions and was most successful from the 1950s – 1970s.”

Photograph of Carl Sandburg playing guitar and singing

“Photograph of poet Carl Sandburg playing a guitar and singing, taken in 1948 when Sandburg was 70 years old. The photo is inscribed and signed by Sandburg in the lower right front corner to his friend and editor Catherine McCarthy at the publisher Harcourt Brace, which reads ‘Catherine McCarthy/ who has heard all the songs and is a much cherished listener and friend/ Carl Sandburg/ 1948[.]’…Sandburg was a Swedish American poet, historian, musician, and folklorist. Born in 1878 to poor Swedish immigrants in Illinois, Sandburg had a transient childhood, working odd jobs around the U.S. during his teenage years – as well as briefly serving during the Spanish-American War – before enrolling in college. It only took a few years before Sandburg became known for his writing, both prose and verse. Eventually he became ‘best known to America as the singing bard…Requests for his lectures began to appear as early as 1908. He was his own accompanist, and was not merely a musician of sorts; he played the guitar well enough to have been a pupil of Andres Segovia’ (Poetry Foundation). Sandburg published many of his varied works during his lifetime to great success.”

“Madam Satan” film photographs featuring Theodore Kosloff as “Electricity”

“Two black and white photographs featuring the Russian ballet dancer Theodore Kosloff in the role of ‘Electricity’ in the 1930 film ‘Madam Satan’…[which] was a Pre-Code Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The film premiered in 1930 and is considered one of the odder films by DeMille (it serves as his only movie-musical) and the studio as a whole. The plot centers around a woman attempting to win back and teach a lesson to her unfaithful husband by attending a masquerade ball in a Zeppelin, disguised as ‘Madam Satan.’ The film is known for its strange dynamics and creative art direction, including the ‘ballet mecanique’ scene…Theodore Kosloff was a Russian ballet dancer. Born in 1882 in Moscow, he danced at Moscow’s Imperial Theater, and eventually toured with the Ballets Russes. In 1909 he met the film director Cecil B. DeMille, which kicked off a personal friendship and long term professional collaboration. Kosloff began as a choreographer for silent films and Broadway shows, eventually acting in said films. His role as ‘Electricity’…was his last major film appearance.”

Loie Fuller cabinet card photograph and dance program

“A cabinet card photograph of the dancer Loie Fuller, taken circa mid-1890s in Glasgow, Scotland…Also included in the collection is a one-sided program from a dance performance by Fuller’s dance troupe at the Union Interalliee club in Paris on July 8, 1924…[Fuller] was an American dancer and theatrical lighting innovator…As an adult Fuller was best known for her ‘Serpentine Dance,’ her popular interpretation of vaudevillian ‘skirt dances’ of the 1890s. With the ‘Serpentine Dance’ Fuller utilized silk fabric and colored lighting to create evocative billows around herself as she danced, creating mesmerizing shapes. In addition to her choreography, Fuller patented numerous theatrical lighting techniques in order to achieve the look she desired for her performances, and some of her innovations persist to this day. Fuller was one of the most popular dancers of the Fin de Siecle era and is often considered the personification of the Art Nouveau movement. She spent the majority of her career in Paris, France, first performing to great acclaim at the Folies-Bergere and eventually creating her own dance company. Fuller was also an out lesbian – something practically unheard of during the time – and her romantic partner of three decades Gab Sorere also served as her professional partner, inheriting Fuller’s dance company when she passed away in 1928.”

Detail from “Madam Satan” film photographs featuring Theodore Kosloff as “Electricity,” C0468, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Laurent Novikoff photograph 

“Black and white matted photograph of Laurent Novikoff, taken by Blake Studios of London, England, circa 1910s…The photograph is inscribed and signed by Novikoff – it reads ‘With best wishes from Laurent Novikoff’…Laurent Novikoff, born Lavrentiy Lavrentievich Novikov, was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer. Born in 1888 in Moscow, Novikoff rose through the Russian ballet ranks to eventually become the first dancer of the Moscow Imperial Ballet in 1908 at the age of twenty. During this time Novikoff became well-known as the frequent dancer partner of the famed Anna Pavlova, and often accompanied her on her dance tours. In 1919, Novikoff joined the Ballets Russes, but eventually returned to dance with Pavlova in 1921. Novikoff danced for a few years more, but eventually immigrated to the United States where he began his dance master and choreography career. In 1929 he became ballet master for the Chicago Civic Opera Company, and eventually served in the same role at the Metropolitan Opera beginning in 1941. While in Chicago during the 1930s, Novikoff operated his own dance studio, the Laurent Novikoff Dance Arts Studio. Novikoff eventually retired and passed away in New Buffalo, MI in 1956.”

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