Posts Tagged ‘The Black Crook (extravaganza)’


Betty Rigl in The Black Crook, Niblo’s Garden, New York, 1866

September 29, 2013

Betty Rigl (1850-after 1903), Austrian-born American dancer, as she appeared as one of the principal dancers in the ‘Devil Dance’ in The Black Crook, a musical extravaganza produced at Niblo’s Garden, New York, on 12 September 1866
(photo: C.D. Fredericks & Co, 587 Broadway, New York, probably 1866)

‘The Ballet and the Ladies.
‘The New York correspondent of the Mobile Advertiser writes as follows of the ballet:
The Black Crook, as a play, is the silliest trash I ever listened to. Any ordinary school boy could write a better dialogue, and the plot is the same that we have seen in dozens of devil dramas before. But the scenery and transformations are too gorgeous to be described. Nothing approaching them was ever witnessed in New York. And the ballet! Ah! that is the attraction. It is beautiful, ravishing, glorious – and indecent – particularly the latter. I have no time for details, but must mention one dance – the dance – the ”Demon Dance.” this might be called the ”model artist” exhibition. Four beautiful and magnificently formed girls (from Paris [sic]) come on the stage in tights and dance for ten or fifteen minutes. A part of their bodies is encased in red silk jiggers of some sort, but that only makes them the more attractive. I was astonished to see hundreds of fashionable and very respectable looking ladies watching this exhibition with the deepest interest. There was a time when American ladies would leave the theatre at once if such a scene were presented to them. But our ladies visit Paris oftener now than of yore, and begin to like Paris customs very well indeed. A woman who would consider herself greatly insulted if asked how she liked Adah Menken in Mazeppa, will take indefinite delight in looking at the ”Demon Dance.” And yet I am not sure the Menken exhibition is really more indecent than the one I saw at Niblo’s on Saturday night. The Menken was not fashionable; the Parisians are, and perhaps that explains why our belles take their opera glasses to Niblo’s every night.’
(Public Ledger, Memphis Tennessee, Monday, 5 November 1866, p. 1c)

* * * * *

According to the United States Census of 1880, Betty Rigl was born in Austria in October 1850. She arrived in America in 1860, presumably accompanied by her sister, Emily Rigl and together they appeared in 1866 in The Black Crook at Niblo’s under the management of William Whitney (d. 1898). Betty Rigl subsequently married Whitney (apparently in 1874) and she appears to have retired a year or two after fulfilling an engagement during 1875 at the Alhambra, Leicester Square, London, at which time she was described as having been ”’première danseuse” of the Imperial Opera, Vienna’ (The Morning Post, London, Wednesday, 28 April 1875, p. 5e). London critics were impressed: Mdlle. Rigl ‘is perhaps the best artist in her line who has appeared amongst us since Mdlle. Henriette d’Or, whose dancing in Babil and Bijou [Covent Garden, 29 August 1872] cannot well have been forgotten. But the style of Mdlle. Betty Rigl is altogether different from that of Mdlle. D’Or. The one is distinguished for her ”point,” and the other was remarkable for her ”elevation.” These are the two principal arts of ballet dancing. Although the skill of ”elevation” is one rarely attained, and is, of course, the more fascinating to the beholder, it is an open question if a through proficiency in ”point” is not a more valuable gift. Mddle. Betty Rigl has not all that airy and fairylike grace of the great exponents of her art; she does not possess that charming abandon of style which so captivates the beholder. But the ”tip-toe” dancing could scarcely be excelled and the movement of the foot from the ankle downwards is the very perfection of ease and neatness. Well, indeed, did the lady deserve the rounds of applause with which her dancing was greeted. It was hearty enough when she danced with M. Jousset, the celebrated ballet master, but when she executed her steps alone a hearty encore was inevitable.’ (The Era, London, Sunday, 9 May 1875, p. 4d).

At Christmas, 1876, Betty Rigl was seen in a ‘Snow Ballet’ in the pantomime, Robinson Crusoe and his Man Friday at the Theatre Royal, Manchester.


Mlles. Serpolette, Folette, Risette and Clair de Lune

March 31, 2013

‘Quadrille Fin de Siecle,’ a cabinet photograph of Mlles. Serpolette, Folette, Risette and Clair de Lune, the Parisian can can dancers who made their sensational American debut at Koster & Bial’s, New York, in November 1892
(photo: Sarony, New York, 1892)

‘At Koster & Bial’s last night the second half of the programme was made up of imported Parisian ”specialties,” which were loudly applauded by the motley crowd. A novelty announced with a ”quadrille fin de siècle” by four dancers from the neighbourhood of the Batignolles.
‘They were supposed to hail from the Moulin Rouge, the home of high kicking and acrobatic performances, but from their comparatively slight knowledge of the figures of the dance, it is probably that, if they did come from Paris at all, it was from one of the smaller cafés. They have the South Fifth Avenue manner. Mlles. Serpolette, Folette, Risette, and Claire de Lune are four very large and rather vulgar-looking women of mature years. They do not dance ven as well as the four women in The Black Crook, nor do they attempt the same gymnastics, but the ”quadrille” is identical with that dances at the Fourteenth Street house.
‘Their performance seemed to please the crowd at Koster & Bial’s. M. and Mme. Berat, Marie Vanoni, with ”Georgie” and ”La Cantinière”, the grotesque Eduardos, and the Americans, Wood and Shepard, were all more interesting to decent folk. The Rendezvous and Barbe Bleu (condensed) operettas were well given.’
(The New York Times, New York, Wednesday, 22 November 1892, p. 5)

‘New York has a new attraction at one of her music halls. The four French dancers, Mlles. Serpolette, Clair de Lune, Folette and Risette, who made their first appearance in this country last week on Koster & Bial’s concert hall stage gave what may be safely called the most sensational terpsichorean exhibition that has ever been witnesses on the American stage. Their exhibition was anything but artistic, or even fetching. It consisted in a more than liberal display of lingerie, some very high kicking, squatting on the floor with legs stretched out at right angles, making somersaults and other feats of similar nature.’
(Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Monday, 28 November 1892, p. 4a)

‘Dancing before the footlights in New York city just now are a number of young women from Paris’ Maulin Range [sic] and Jardin de Paris, who are creating a sensation, the like of which has not been experienced in many a day, says a writer in the World of that city. According to the writer a new dance has been introduced by the French called le grand ecart. The English name for it is not very dignified. Perhaps the feat is less so, but we must accept it as an artistic excellence. Imagine the dignity of a young woman sinking down to the floor her limbs at right angles to the body. The undignified phase is lost in the rapturous applause which comes from all parts of the house, even from the box tiers of the Four Hundred… .’
(Hamilton Daily Democrat, Hamilton, Ohio, 17 December 1892, p. 3d)

Babes in the Wood may be seen for another week at this spacious and handsome theater, before making way for The Isle of Champagne. It is a showy, spectacular piece, with a dash of burlesque, a dash of vaudeville, a bit of pantomime, some singing, incessant music, brilliant effects of costume, scenery and lights, and more than a dash of dancing. The performance of the four French dancers, who wrap their legs around their necks and perform the bone racking feat called ”the split,” makes a genuine sensation. Arthur Dunn and Timothy Cronin in the comic parts are really funny.’
(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, Sunday, 12 February 1893, p. 5a)