Florence Vandamm: Dance Photographer?
The representation of the professional and artistic career of Florence Vandamm has a major gap, which we are doing our best to fill in. Her London scrapbook goes from 1908–1915. The Vandamm Theatrical Photographs collection documents her work in New York City, from 1924 on. We have filled in some of the gap with the Sybil Thorndike material (see earlier posts) and discoveries of images printed in magazines, such as British and New York Vogue, Vanity Fair and The Spur.
One of her early jobs for British Vogue was a photograph of Bronislava Nijinska as the Humming Bird Fairy in the Dighailev production of The Sleeping Beauty, 1921. Today’s image is from a New Yok City theatre work, choreographed by Nijinska—Max Reinhardt’s famous 1927 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It shows Wladamir Sokoloff as Puck with Maria Solveg as Hermia (or possibly Rosalind Pinchot as Helena). It is a gorgeous pose that encompasses both a supported attitude with plot-related activity—Puck is putting the love herb in her eyes.
The gap in Vandamm documentation led to my misunderstanding her experience with documenting dance. I interpreted her photographs of modern dance pioneers Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Blanche Talmud in their Neighborhood Playhouse works were her first work in that field.
I had missed a clue. The scrapbook includes a concert flyer for a popular entertainment dancer named Effie Graham and a brochure promoting a theatrical dance course offered by Louis Hervey d’Egville, who had a more significant career as a social dance teacher. I am sorry to say that the Graham illustrations and d’Egville cover image brought out the dance snob in me. However, after conservation, we were able to open the brochure and discovered Vandamm photographs of d’Egville and an unidentified female dance in poses that I am pretty sure are from Giselle. Or, if not, in a similar
Romantic-era ballet. He is in Medieval jerkin and tights; she is in a knee-length, white tutu. The first photo is a straight-forward arabesque; the second is a supported dive, reminiscent of the 2nd act of Giselle. I’m hoping to learn more on a research trip to London. Stay tuned.