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Sisters: The Bevy & other Acts
by David for group historicalziegfeld Dec 30, 2010

Barrison Sisters
Beasey Sisters
Bouton Sisters

Benjamin "Jake" Falk was the great innovator in late 19th-century theatrical photography. He had seen Sarony create the genre of celebrity-star portraiture and Mora create the beauty girl image--creating international celebrities out of chorines whose only recommendation was a handsome face. Falk wished to create his own mark in the field. He did so by three innovations: the production still (stage pictures shot in the theater of performers on set in costume in pose), child beauty portraits, and the genre of theatrical sister imagery. Indeed, he is largely responsible for fueling the rise of sister acts on the vaudeville and Broadway stage with his novel images of grouped beauties in the 1890s. There was a strange eugenic dimension to the boom in pretty sister sketches and productions. The idea of the affinity of beauty--the fact that beauty was a genetic feature of certain gifted families--entranced people, particularly in the physical culture movement, with the prospect of a prettier population in the future, if one could interbreed with these aesthetically advantaged beings. One message of sister acts was of the abundance of beauty in certain families. The Barrison sisters, "The Wickedest Girls in the World," made the desire for copulation an explicit theme of their act, asking the audience in song, while raising their skirts above their knees, "Would you like to see my pussy?" When the crowd response had gotten sufficiently uproarious, they would raise the skirts higher to reveal live kittens strapped over their danger zones.


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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    2016 Aug 9: I enjoyed reading this again so much while reposting it here. Such great info from David and kweku5.

    I'd give my last bag of cookies to see a photo of the Barrison Sisters with their kittens :smile:

    Someone has to be silly here and its always...... jane
  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    profdash wrote on Jan 4, '11
    The Barrisons have a historical importance that I've slighted somewhat in the sketch above. They introduced the line kick (a'la radio city music hall) into stage dancing, made underwear more important than outerwear--a principle embraced by French imitators when they headlined the Folies Bergeres, and popularized the synchronized gesture and quick serial gesture in stage language. Mabel Barrison became one of the Babes in Toyland, Gertrude a pioneering modern dancer of the early 20th century German world.

    kweku5 wrote on Sep 27, '11
    Wonderful images of the Barrison Sisters – the first Ziegfeld girls. Most of these photos were taken in 1893, seven years after they emigrated to the U.S. from Denmark with their mother. The five sisters were Abelone (Lona) Marie Bareisen, born 1871; Hansine Johanne Bareisen, called Olga, born 1875; Sophie Kathrine Bareisen, born 1877; Inger Marie Bareisen, born 1878, and Gertrude Marie Bareisen, born 1880, all in Copenhagen. They changed their surname to Barrison after settling in New York. 1893 was the year these talented and well-choreographed sisters got their real breakthrough – as what in essence could be called the first of the Ziegfeld girls. In June of that year they were performing at the Casino Roof Garden on New York’s Broadway alongside among others the then relatively unknown strongman Eugene Sandow. Young Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. came by one night, saw the show, and hired both Sandow and The Barrison Sisters. Later that summer Sandow and the Barrison Sisters premiered at Ziegfelds fathers music hall, Trocadero Palace, at the World Expo in Chicago. Both the Prussian strongman and the Danish sisters became an overnight sensation in the “Windy City”. In the light of their sudden success, the Barrison Sisters in December 1893 sailed for Europe again, where their novel, risqué and extremely synchronized act elevated them to stardom at Folies-Bergère in Paris and later among other places Wintergarten in Berlin, Alhambra in London and Ronacher in Vienna.
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