6 March 2011

Kate Vaughan



Born in 1852 in London as Catherine Candelon, Kate Vaughan was an English actress and burlesque dancer, making her debut in 1870 as a dancer and appearing on the stage as an actress in 1872. She also performed burlesque at The Gaiety from 1876 through 1883 and again in 1886. Some of her notable roles include in shows such as: La Dada at Varietes in Paris in 1876, as Cinderella in Cinderella at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in 1883 and Around the World at the Empire Theatre in 1886, among others.


 
In the two decades before 1892, the skirt dance was à la mode. With its ‘swift rushes and billowy undulations’, its romantic use of drapery and rapid swerves across the stage, it struck a balance between the classical ballet and the athletic step-dances beloved of the music-hall crowds.



The skirt dance was first performed by the dark-haired Kate Vaughan in a performance of The Ballet of the Furies at the Holborn Ampitheatre in 1873. She played the part of the Spirit of Darkness, swathed in a long black skirt much embellished in gold and palely lit from the front, as if by moonlight.



Shortly afterwards, she was performing other versions of this dance in gauzy skirts at John Hollingshead’s Gaiety Theatre on the West End. The popularity of her sweeping skirts attracted hordes of imitators, the best-known being Alice Lethbridge and Letty Lind (another Gaiety performer).



She organised with H B Conway the Vaughan-Conway comedy company. Her health failing, she went to Australia, 1896, and South Africa in 1902, dying at Johannesburg in 1903.

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