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La Divine Amylla

May 27, 2013

La Divine Amylla (fl. early 20th Century), dancer
(photo: Hana, London, circa 1908/1909)

This real photograph postcard, probably dating from about 1908/1909, is by Hana, theatrical and music hall photographer, London.

‘Beauty and Classicism at The Empire [Johannesburg, South Africa].
‘The ”sensation” of the Empire season just now, the ”top-liner,” is Mdlle. Amylla, classic dancer. She brought a huge audience to the Palace [sic] on Monday, and there has been little or no falling off through the week. Opinions may clash as to the ”sensuality” of the lady’s show. I can see none. It is Art, pure unadulterated Art, of a kind that explains the furore created by Maud Allan and her imitators in England. The ”divine Amylla,” I should imagine, is unequalled in her own line. She is the embodiment of Moods – lithe, sinuous, graceful, sometimes snake-like in her dancing; reflecting the meaning of the music, subtly conveying its lesson without words. In her illustration of the Chopin Marche Funebre, she is the very abandonment of woe, crushed to the earth by calamity; a one bound she reaches the other Pole, when Mendelssohn’s Spring Song begins – she is the Spirit of Youth, the Nymph of dancing for sheer lightness of heart in ”meadows trim with daisies pied.” As the awakened statue she is a picture of unreasoning ecstasy in her dance before the shrine. But the masterpiece is her presentation of Herodia’s daughter, the young lady who so charmed her step-father by her dancing that he vowed a vow she should have whatso’er she wishes – and she took him at his word and got the head of John the Baptist, in disfavour with her mother because he had condemned that person’s marriage with her deceased husband’s brother Herod. This items is distinctly ”thrilly.” We have to imagine Herod sitting in the great hall, in ”bad eminence,” with his vindictive spouse by his side, surrounded by stern soldiery. Enter Salome, fit daughter of a wanton mother, very neglige as to costume. She dances after a fashion fit to wile the senses of any man, until once can fancy the enraptured Herod crying, ”with an oath,” that she could have her wish even to half of his kingdom. ”Being instructed of her mother,” she compasses the death of John, and presently receives the ghastly head, which she now fondles, now taunts, now spurns, a very Megæra tormented by the memory of her own crime. It is a wonderful, a magnetic illusion, lasting until the woman falls, exhausted as much by physical strain as by mental stress so it is presented. There was no questioning Amylla’s triumph. She gripped the crowded house from the first, and her hold grew stronger until the ”Salome incident,” which drew thunders of cheering and brought her again and again to the divided curtain.’
(The Transvaal Critic, Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday, 4 December 1908, quoted in The Encore, London, Thursday, 28 January 1909, p. 9 advertisement)

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