Lottie Collins

Lottie Collins, late 19th century. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lottie Collins, late 19th century. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lottie Collins began her career in 1877 in a skipping rope dance act with her sisters as 'The Three Sisters Collins'. While in America in 1891 she heard what was to become her trademark song, ‘Tar-ra-ra-boom-der-ay!’. She sang it at the Tivoli in London and it became a major hit. Lottie would pause after the demure first verse and then whirl into an uninhibited version of the skirt dance. Her legs flashing in high-kicking Can-Can style steps would reveal her stockings held up by sparkling suspenders. This sent the audience wild and left Lottie exhausted.

The sensational, uninhibited nature of the dance and the expanse of exposed leg drew complaints from the Puritan league, but music hall audiences loved her and she became a symbol of the ‘Naughty Nineties’. One hundred years later her garters were sold by auction at Sotheby’s.

Although she performed other songs and sketches, Lottie was forever associated with her one song. The exhausting nature of the dance may have contributed to her early death in 1910 at the age of only 44. Her daughter José became a star of musical comedy.

Lottie Collins, late 19th century. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lottie Collins, late 19th century. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lottie Collins in a burlesque of the play Monte Cristo Jr, 1886, Gaiety Theatre, London. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lottie Collins, late 19th century. Lottie Collins in a burlesque of the play Monte Cristo Jr, 1886, Gaiety Theatre, London. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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