The collection of the National Museum of Dance comprises objects such as costumes, set pieces, and works of fine art as well as archival materials including correspondence, season programs, playbills, books, periodicals, audio-visual materials, posters, scrapbooks, and thousands of photographs. The original proposal for the establishment of a permanent collection more than thirty years ago indicated the primary focus should be materials related to Hall of Fame inductees. Over the past three decades, the collection has further evolved to represent exhibitions presented by the Museum in addition to artifacts of consequence to the considerable history of dance. As the Museum remains temporarily closed we would like to highlight some new additions to the collection.
In early 2020 the Museum received an important donation of two costumes known to be from a 1909 Loïe Fuller performance at the Boston Opera House. The costumes were generously donated by the Robinson Ballet from the collection of Ralph Flanders, General Manager of the New England Conservatory of Music and the Boston Opera House in the early years of the twentieth century. Located on Huntington Avenue, the Boston Opera House opened in 1909 as the home of the new Boston Opera Company.
American modern dancer and choreographer Loïe Fuller was a pioneer in theatrical color lighting effects. Born in 1862, she lived and worked in France from the late nineteenth century and was widely known for her experimentation and innovation in color lighting and choreography, most notably utilizing voluminous silk costumes. The abstract imagery she created through choreography, costume, and lighting devices was incomparable and highly enviable. She therefore sought numerous patents to protect her work. After a long solo career in Europe, Fuller was appointed by the Boston Opera House in 1909 to direct the lighting effects as well as the ballet. An article in The New York Times in February that year indicated that productions of Rigoletto, Lohengrin, and Faust at the Boston Opera House would be “most wonderfully lighted” by Fuller. Her own troupe of dancers was also known to have performed in major east coast cities at that time including Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The Boston Opera Company was relatively short-lived and presented only six seasons.
These compelling 1909 costumes from the collection of Ralph Flanders were given to his grandson, Ralph Robinson, who with his wife Jeanne-Marie Aubert founded the Robinson Ballet in Bangor, Maine after careers as principal dancers with Lyon Opera Ballet in France.
To learn more about the Robinson Ballet please visit their website.