Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 23 May 2009

a chat with Kitty Colyer (fl. late 19th/early 20th Century),
English music hall and pantomime comedienne and dancer, London, 1906

Kitty Colyer
Kitty Colyer

(photo: Relph & Co, Preston, England, circa 1912)

'Miss Kitty Colyer, the well-known comedienne and dancer, started her professional career at the age of eleven, and continued her singing and dancing performances until eighteen, when she married and left the stage for a few yers. But an idle life did not suit her, and she tells us that during her absence from the stage she suffered from melancholia. Some fifteen months ago she returned to the work before the footlights of which she is so fond. She undertakes all kinds of dancing, but she has given special attention to acrobatic, toe, buck, and national dancing. The song she is now singing is ''In Wallaroo,'' a coon ditty, and some of her most successful numbers in the past have been ''Good-bye, Jenny,'' ''My little snow house,'' ''Popping around,'' and ''Oh, Dolly.''
'Miss Colyer has the artistic temperament to a pronounced degree, and the daintiness which is so pleasing a feature of her performance was not lacking in the confines of her dressing-room - and apartment that is often excusably unbeautiful.
'One if frequently being told that actors and actresses are ''born not made,'' and if that is true of the drama it is reasonable to suppose that the axiom may be as unswervingly applied to those whose art is of another kind. To Miss Colyer dancing appears to be a fine art. She lives for it, and the pleasure she may give to others in perfecting it is but an additional encouragement in the pursuit of an all-absorbing study. Some people are loath to talk of a subject in which they are proficient. ''Shop,'' they call it, and dismiss the topic with a supercilious gesture. Not so Kitty Colyer. It was easy to see that with her to dance was to live, and though she does not aim at Salome, her ''style'' is as much a product of careful thought, and, to her, as natural a passion as - well, as Salome is to its impersonator [i.e. Maud Allan]
'In reply to a question as to her favourite style of dancing, Miss Colyer said: ''I like toe dancing and fancy dancing, and Spanish dancing is very pretty, but if you were to ask me what the music-hall public like, I should say none of these so much as buck dancing [see also StreetSwing.com]. It is nothing like so graceful to my mind, but it seems to go better than the other. The public weary very quickly nowadays of toe dancing.''
'Speaking as to her dresses and her dressing, Miss Colyer remarked that she did not wear the same dress two nights running, and added: ''I think the audience as as apt to get tired of a dress as they are of a song, and consequently I change for every dance, and, if you notice, I endeavour to suit the dress to the style of dance being done. I change in forty-eight seconds, and the change involves not only my dress, but shoes and stockings, hat, and so on.''
'''Where do I get my ideas for a new dance? Well, I don't know exactly. They come somehow,'' she answered. ''I sit for hours sometimes framing a new idea, and then, when I think I have it, I practise it. All my dances are absolutely my own, and I do not think any are done by other dancers.
'''I am frightfully nervous on Monday evenings. I always have been, and no matter how sure I may feel of being able to do a new dance, the first ordeal of the week is awful,'' and she looked as if she meant it.
'the subject of this sketch is booked up for four years ahead, including engagements at the Tivoli, Oxford, and Pavilion. At the last-named place of entertainment she has been appearing recently. Miss Colyer has had several offers to go to America and the Continent, but she tells us that she can get plenty of work in this country. We took pleasure last week in referring to her exertions in the cause of charity, Miss Colyer having been awarded The Era gold metal for the largest collection for the Shilling Fund of the Music Hall Home. The clever dancer and comedienne is exceedingly fond of sports and games, particularly golf and horse-riding.'
(The Era, London, Saturday, 19 June 1906, p. 22b/c)

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© John Culme, 2009