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Gertrude Hoffman and her Girls (upd. June 2 2010)
by Vlad for group historicalziegfeld May 19, 2010
“Gertrude Hay Hoffman was an early 20th-century vaudeville dancer and choreographer.
Known as Kitty Hayes, a native of San Francisco, she founded and choreographed the Hoffman Girls, a Tiller type formation group that used a type of athletic acrobatic transformation of the chorus girl with kicks, leaps etc. The Hoffman Glide (a social dance) was named after her.
Her choreography and special dance effects brought her high praise and rebuke. Her role as Salome in "Vision of Salome" caused scandal at many theatre houses. In Kansas City, her show was stopped for "indecent dancing and costume, or almost lack therof". One judge was called the Hoffman Girls "[o]bnoxious to public morals" and "replete with immoral suggestions and ought not to be tolerated in a Christian community".
For a brief period in her career, Gertrude did impersonations of various other performers, such as Eva Tanguay, Anna Held, Eddie Foy and Ethel Barrymore. The Hoffman Glide, a social dance, was named after her.”
“A remarkably versatile veteran of the performing arts in America was Gertrude Hoffmann who began as a specialty dancer in the late years of the nineteenth century. In New York as one of the first women choreographers, she specialized in chorus lines and special effects. Her third career, for which she was most famous, was as an impersonator. Imitations of other vaudeville and musical theatre acts were tremendously popular in the first decades of the twentieth century for performance by men and women as their own or cross gender impersonators. With her colleague Julian Eltinge, probably the most famous of these, Hoffmann often outshone the originals they parodied. In the 1920s she resumed work as a precision line choreographer and eventually returned to California where as a member of the MGM and WB stock companies she appeared in almost fifty movies as a mother, grandmother, housekeeper, and nightclubbing matron.”
A "SALOME" DANCE BY MISS HOFFMAN
July 14, 1908, Tuesday
Two Performances in a Brevity of Costume Given at Hammerstein's. BIG AUDIENCES SEE HER " The Vision of Salome" Produced with Special Scenery in a Subdued Light -- Several Curtain Calls.
Gertrude Hoffmann gave her first imitation of Maud Allan's dance, "A Vision of Salome," at Hammerstein's Theatre yesterday afternoon and repeated it on the Roof Garden in the evening. Miss Hoffmann amply fulfilled her promise to give a "life-like impersonation" of Miss Allan's dance.
ARREST GERTRUDE HOFFMAN
July 24, 1909, Saturday
Hammerstein Dancer Held for Offending Public Decency.
After performing her "Salome dance" for some 400 times, Gertrude Hoffman was arrested at Hammerstein's Roof Garden last night by Capt. George Walden, specially detailed from Police Headquarters, for violating Section 1,530 of the Penal Code by offending public decency.
HOFFMANN ARREST WORRIES MANAGERS
July 25, 1909, Sunday
Vaudeville Men Fear the Theatrical Lid Is to be Put on Tight by Baker. DANCER APPEARS IN TIGHTS Takes No Chances After Her Arrest for Indecency -- Case Adjourned Until Next Tuesday.
LOTS OF GLITTER, GIRLS, AND WHIRLS
November 21, 1912, Thursday
With Gertrude Hoffmann of the Aubrey Beardsley Poses in New Show at the Winter Garden.
Gertrude Hoffmann, fleet of foot and lithe of limb, with her transformations from Aubrey Beardsley poster effects, deep-shadowed, Carmen-lipped, and auburn-hued, to a sunlit figure, flesh tinted and flaunting a mass of golden hair -- the same Gertrude Hoffmann whose voice takes on the syrupy sweetness of an earlier Ethel Barrymore, then breaks into the queer squeakings of an Eddie Foy.
SEEKS GERTRUDE HOFFMANN
July 26, 1919, Saturday
Husband of Dancer Says She Has Disappeared.
Gertrude Hoffmann Found.
July 27, 1919, Sunday
Gertrude Hoffman, the dancer, who eras reported to have disappeared on the night of July 23, has been discovered, according to Val O'Farrell
“Two years ago when Mlle. Pavlowa and M. Mordkine appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House in their Russian dances, it was hinted that New York had been given only a taste of the genuine "Ballet Russe" and that next winter a much larger company with numerous star solo dancers would be seen here in all the elaborate productions of the repertoire.
One ballet in particular, "Sheherazade," by Leon Bakst, a chapter from the Arabian Nights Entertainment, with all its settings of Oriental mysticism and costumes of barbaric splendor, would, it was announced, create a veritable sensation. Gertrude Hoffmann, an American dancer whose Salome performances are familiar to this public, saw the "Ballet Russe" in Paris and conceived the idea of organizing a company of her own and bringing it to New York in advance of the opening at the Metropolitan. She succeeded in prevailing upon certain members of the Russian Ballet Company to associate themselves with her, and the result is the present engagement at the Winter Garden.
There can be no question as to the success of the venture. On the opening night the spectators went wild with enthusiasm. Such dancing, such stage settings, had never before been seen on our stage. Even if the organization could boast of only one dancer of the artistic distinction of Lydia Lopoukowa it would still be a notable one. This gifted little dancer, who is not yet nineteen years old, held the audience spellbound. In her youth and grace the spectators saw the reincarnation of Taglioni. Her every movement was a delight and she fairly danced her way into the audience's heart. Another marvel of the terpsichorian art was Alexander Volinine, premier danscer of the Russian Imperial Theatre, whose European reputation long ago put him at the head of his profession. He is a purely classic dancer, handsome of physique, and with a grace and strength that evokes wonder and admiration. He carried Lopoukowa through the intricate figures of their dance with a skill and ease truly remarkable.
The entertainment is divided into three parts, each being a ballet of different type. The first, "Cleopatre." is a love drama with a tragic finale; the second. "Les Sylphides," a series of dances to Chopin's music, and the third, "Sheherazade," an Oriental love drama well interspersed with tragedy.
The setting of "Cleopatre" shows a shrine in the desert. There is a high-columned hall of Egyptian type, affording a view of the Nile between the pillars at the back. Amoun, a young archer, loves a girl, but Cleopatra, the Queen, arrives, wins the archer from the girl, and condemns him to die the next morning. Before the Queen's curtained couch takes place the famous Bacchanale dance, executed by twenty dancers. This scene, with its whirling draperies, brilliant-colored costumes, solo marches and dances, was most striking and drew forth unrestrained applause from the spectators. Gertrude Hoffmann appeared as Cleopatra, while Marie Baldina was the archer's sweetheart. Theodore Kosloff played the archer. Mile. Lopoukowa executed a solo dance as leader of the Bacchanale and brought down the house.
"Les Sylphides," given to the accompaniment of Chopin's music, belongs to the more conventional school of ballet dancing with toe dancing and filmy white skirts. The performers were Lydia Lopoukowa, Alexander Yolinine, Mlle. Cochin, Marie Baldina
and Mlle. Gluck, with a corps de ballet.
The ensemble work of the company was best seen in "Sheherazade," described on the programme as "a chorographic drama." The story is familiar to all readers of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, the scene being the Harem of the King of India and China. The King and his brother go on a journey, leaving their wives under the guard of Chief Eunuch. Their masters have no sooner disappeared than the wives persuade the guard to let them have the keys and, opening the doors, they allow the men slaves to enter. There ensues a noisy revelry, at the height of which the King and his brother return. Soldiers are summoned and all are killed except the King's favorite (Gertrude Hoffmann). She begs for mercy and when the King, refusing, orders her execution, she kills herself with a knife snatched from one of the soldiers. In this ballet there is plenty of Oriental languor, passion and wild dancing, which at times verges on frenzy, and the riot of brilliant costumes is almost bewildering. But it is all well stage managed and artistic in every detail. Both in "Cleopatre" and "Sheherazade" Alexis Kosloff won great applause for some wonderful solo dancing. There is an orchestra of seventy-five musicians, ably conducted by Max Hoffmann. Money has certainly not been spared in presenting the Russian Ballets on a magnificent scale. Their season at the Winter Garden should be a success.”
© Theatre, July 1911
Gertrude Hoffman Girls
“Artists and Models
is a saturnalia that grows, each year, bigger, better, barer. This one is called the Paris Edition because the name Paris is, with Broadwayites, a synonym for limbs and confidential badinage. The badinage in this show, however, achieves wit; the lace is never where it is expected; and the limbs, particularly those of the Gertrude Hoffman girls, late of the Moulin Rouge, are exquisite, adept. Authors Harold Atteridge and Harry Wabstaff Gribble do not depend on the upholstery to make their lines agreeable; the art directing and music decidedly the most able that those penetrating students of public taste, the Messer Shubert, have ever paid for. There is, also, a funny man, one Phil Baker.
"I don't like stories," declared he. "I like riddles."
"Sure. Riddles and syrup."
"That's terrible. That's a pun."
"I like puns too."
"Sure. Puns and coffee."
At one point, a small town friend of his stands up in a box, causing 15 minutes of this and that. For those who receive impressions more readily with the eye than the ear, acts have been designed. "The Rotisserie," in which four girls, trussed on enormous spits, baste in front of an electric fire; "The Promenade Walk at the Beach" which sends 50 odd and some beautiful bathing suits skipping behind the rotund personality of Miss Frances Williams; the "Palette" scene, in which the Hoffman girls emerge, one by one, from a paint box, disguised as pastel crayons; "Cellini's Dream," difficult to describe. All these are transcended by the most colossal exploitation of the Mammy song ever attempted on the U. S. stage, a skit entitled "Mothers of the World." gentle matrons, in a series of cloistered niches, touched with a dim, a holy light, sing their infants asleep, while above their heads the prima donna, attired as a cherub, leads a choir of angels.”
© Time, 6 July, 1925
“…Yet another continental troupe from Germany was the Gertrude Hoffman Girls. They were a fearless troupe. Their routine included a dance - finishing by climbing sets of webbing with loops attached. Their evolutions, posture and grace always earned and created thunderous applause. This year I notice a revival of the "Mirror Dance". I first showed the mirror dance in 1905. It is now 1953. It was in a production of Henry Swinhard's "Squatter's Daughter" where two girls are seen making up before a huge mirror - which the "reflection" is that two other girls synchronise their slightest movement or actions in perfect timing. The finale is by flying aloft the "gauze" which is hung about six feet in front of a dead black velvet drapery which forms the climax - to discover four girls…”
© “Memories of Show Business” by Percy G Court, 1953