Krishna & Radha
Created by and performed with Uday Shankar. Music by Comolata Banerji. Authentic Indian costumes and sets designed after ancient frescoes.
Pavlova visited India twice, and when she saw the ancient frescoes on the cave walls at Ajanta she knew immediately that she wanted to base a ballet on them. Master Indian dancer Uday Shankar arranged this piece specifically for her and accompanied her in its first performances. “Krishna and Radha” first became a Pas de Deux in Pavlova’s very popular “Oriental Impressions” suite but was later incorporated into a four-act ballet of its own, “Ajanta’s Frescoes.” European and American audiences were fascinated by all things “oriental,” and responded wildly to Pavlova’s exotic, sinuous, and highly sensual interpretations.
Krishna & Radha, Re-Imagined
What fun these costumes were to make! I used a large gold and purple scarf from India—given to me by a dear friend–for most of the pieces. Borders, fringe, stripes, and solid purple areas were all carefully cut to utilize them to their best advantage. From Raccoons Rags I got the pattern for Pavlova’s traditional lehenga (skirt) and choli (top). Her draped dupatta (shawl) and Shankar’s turban were made from silk netting dyed to match. Sequins, trims, and costume jewelry belonging to my late mother were all used for further embellishments. The flute is a piece of bamboo.
Shankar’s costume is adapted from a pattern by Joe Kowalski of Sister Mary Joseph’s Doll Patterns, Joe, a former Broadway and Hollywood costume designer, has been extraordinarily helpful for costuming the boys in the Pavlova Project. From pirates and gypsies to aristocrats, princes. and Eastern potentates, he always seems to have just the right pattern for what I need!
This photograph was taken on the lawn at Ivy House in 1923, with Pavlova wearing one of the kimonos she brought back from her trip to Japan the year before. As part of her new ballet, “Oriental Impressions,” Pavlova arranged three Japanese dances to music by Henry Geehl from an original Japanese theme. In Japan she had studied with Tokyo professors Fijima and Fumi, and renowned dance master, Kikugoro VI. Pavlova was fascinated with the national dances of the countries she visited, and this is just one of many examples of her adapting what she had learned into her own genre of classical ballet.
Japanese Dancers, Re-Imagined
Lea McComas, a dear friend and internationally-acclaimed fiber artist, has a wonderful collection of kimonos she brought back from Okinawa several years ago. To my delight, she gave me several large scraps from a woman’s kimono that had already been taken apart. And for a marvelous, doll-sized sewing pattern, I am once again indebted to the talented Joe Kowalksi of Sister Mary Joseph Doll Patterns. With Joe’s instructions, Lea’s generous silk pieces, and costume jewelry and trims from my late mother’s collection, I was able to make this authentic Japanese kimono in one-quarter scale, including undergarment, robe, obi, shoes and elaborate headdress. The fan is a bridal shower trinket I found on Ebay.
This ballet was a set of three traditional Mexican dances, taught to the troupe by local teachers in Mexico City when they visited in 1919. Performances were given in the great bull ring, to the delight of local audiences. Pavlova adapted many passages to her own genre of classical pointe work, but the décor, costumes, music and rapid footwork were decidedly Latin. The music, scenery and costumes were subsequently given to Pavlova as a gift from the people of Mexico City. This was a stunning and unprecedented gesture of their good-will and appreciation for her artistry. When she performed these same dances in London and New York, audiences were surprised and delighted. The deliberate clopping sound of the point shoes on the wooden stage was a novelty in itself; in classical ballet the dancer works exceedingly hard to keep her feet silent as she bourrees across the stage.
Mexican Dances, Re-Imagined
I was fortunate to find online a hand-colored photograph of Pavlova in this costume, where she was featured on the cover of a vintage theater magazine. I could see that her China Poblana (dress) was red and white with a waistband and fringe of green. I found a gorgeous piece of embroidered silk for the skirt at Elfriede’s Fine Fabrics. The voluminous ruffled underskirt is white batiste, buoyed up by layers of gathered tulle, and bordered with a delicate scalloped cotton trim. My favorite cotton/silk blend in black, also from Elfriede’s, was used for the male dancer’s charro (suit). Fortuitously, a friend had just returned from Mexico and brought me a small yellow handwoven tea towel. It was just perfect for the sarape (blanket). Various trims, silk flowers, jewelry and a miniature sombrero (found in an online store for pet costumes) completed the outfits. In case you’re interested, here’s an entertaining collection of images of chihuahua’s wearing sombreros. The lengths we artists go to for our work.
In Italy with Lamb
Pavlova rarely took any time off from her rigorous touring schedule, but one holiday in Saslomaggiore, Italy was uniquely preserved for us by the camera of Gianni Moreschi , a photographer from northern Italy. The series of images are still owned by the photographer’s family and give us a wonderful sense of how unusual but welcome such a brief interlude was for the overworked and exhausted dancer. In this photograph we see Pavlova relaxing in the countryside, dressed in a cotton frock with shawl and hat, and affectionately embracing a little lamb.
In Italy with Lamb, Re-Imagined
I used a fat quarter of green polka dot cotton for the sun dress and matching hat band. This is one of just a few pieces in the Pavlova Project collection where the mannequin is dressed so casually, but this dress certainly gives her the air of being on vacation, far away from the stage. The lovely little felted lamb, sporting a collar with a tiny bell that actually rings, was made by Lenora, from her Etsy shop.
In Italy with Alexandre Jacovleff
Artist Alexandre Jacovleff, stands beside Pavlova in this photo taken in Salsomaggiore in 1925. They had known each other for over 10 years, and in 1915 he had painted a large portrait of her in costume for Giselle. This photograph is another in the series taken by Italian photographer, Gianni Moreschi (see In Italy with a Lamb in this same gallery). Interestingly, it appears that Viktor Dandre did not accompany Pavlova on this vacation, though in his posthumous biography of her he claims to have been there. Rather, Pavlova appears in several photos with the dashing young artist, and the two appear to be very playful and thoroughly comfortable with each other. Here they are “mugging” it up, she as a peasant girl with firewood and he hefting rocks in a manly stance. Much romantic speculation has swirled around the conservative Russian Orthodox Pavlova and the handsome young man who clearly had her attention. We do know that while in Italy together, Jacovleff created many drawings of her, including at least one image in the nude. We may never know the truth about their relationship, but in these intriguing photographs, we certainly see a smiling, fliratious, almost girlish Pavlova, whom we do not see in photos with Dandre!
In Italy with Alexandre Jacovleff, Re-Imagined
Here is my Pavlova in cotton overalls and a short-sleeved blouse; certainly something very different from what I was used to sewing. And the pants, tee-shirt and cap for handsome Jacovleff, who sports a pony tail and beard, was a huge departure from the elaborately costumed danseurs I was used to. Pavlova holds twigs purchased at Michael’s. For the rocks hunky Jacovleff is shouldering, at first I tried to glue small stones to his upper arm, but they were too heavy and kept falling off. I finally found some Styrofoam “boulders” at an online model railroad supplier, and they were just right!
Invitation to Dance
By the spring of 1928, Pavlova was suffering from permanent exhaustion and chronic pain in her knee. Nevertheless, her drive to dance — coupled with her intense sense of responsibility toward her large entourage of dancers, designers, musicians, wardrobe managers, and stagehands – drove her relentlessly onward, with tours in India, Malaysia, and Australia. In both Sydney and Brisbane, she partnered with Pierre Vladimiroff in a revival of a one-act ballet, “Introduction to the Dance,”which she had first performed in 1913. Music was by operatic composer Carl Maria von Weber and choreography by Polish dancer Piotr Zajlich. New costumes were by noted designer Georges Barbier, who also designed the costumes for “Amarilla,” in this website’s London Gallery. “Invitation to the Dance” was a popular piece with audiences, and it was one of the last ballets that Pavlova performed back in England just before her unexpected death in January, 1931.
Invitation to Dance, Re-Imagined
This photograph shows my two costumed mannequins on a circular wooden base encased in a round plexiglass cover, all constructed by master carpenter David Closser, using plexiglass supplied by Colorado Plastic Products. I’d originally hoped to have these cases for all of my seventy-five costumes, but at a cost of almost $700 each, I’ve been able to commission just 12 of them. Though the covers do provide superb protection for the delicate costumes, they hinder the visual pleasure of seeing them up close and unobstructed. My goal, as stated elsewhere in this website, is to find a permanent exhibit space for the entire collection, ideally in a light-, climate-, and dust-controlled environment. Until then, they populate every available corner of my small, four room house, which could hardly be described as dust-free!
Visit to Egypt
Worldwide press coverage followed Howard Carter’s spectacular discovery in 1922 of the nearly intact tomb of King Tutankhamun. The expedition, funded by Lord Carnarvon (owner of the grand estate we know as Downton Abbey) created a sensation across the globe. Visiting Egypt just one year later, Anna Pavlova — always promoting her ballet company–took advantage of this “Egyptomania” by having a series of thirty publicity shots: at the Sphinx, in front of the Pyramids, and here, riding a camel. An intrepid adventuress with an abiding love for animals and children, Pavlova manages to look fashionably chic while sitting nonchalantly on her patient dromedary, who is also all decked out for the occasion. For the delightful little children at the camel’s feet, the world-famous dancer was perhaps just another silly English tourist.
Visit to Egypt, Re-Imagined
I made my camel by greatly enlarging a pattern from Margaret Hutchings’ 1959 “Modern Soft Toy Making,”a book I’ve owned since childhood. Here is a wonderful review of that same book by “While She Naps” blogger, Abigail Patner Glassenberg, a fellow stuffed-animalist, if I may coin a term. Pavlova’s pleated skirt was made with a recently-discovered sewing gizmo, The Perfect Pleater, from a favorite shop, Annie’s Crafts. The beautiful cardigan sweater is hand-knit by Welsh knitter Lel Bills, who makes the most amazing hand-knit sweaters for dolls on teeny tiny needles. At some later date, I’d like to add a couple of the children.