Adeline Genée’s style of dance suited the light-hearted nature of music hall ballet. She made her first appearance in London at the Empire Theatre in 1897 and was its star for ten years.
Trained by her uncle in Denmark, she danced in his touring ballet company as a child. When she came to London she had already danced as guest ballerina at the opera houses in Munich and Berlin. It is as Swanilda in Coppélia that she is best remembered. Her style and technique were said to have been near perfection, and she was responsible for ballet becoming very popular in London. Diaghilev saw her dance in 1911, and was so impressed that he offered her a contract to dance with his company, but she declined.
Adeline Genée in High Jinks at Empire Theatre, black and white photograph, 1904
For 12 years from 1897, Adeline Genée starred in the ballets at the Empire Theatre in London. Ballet had not been popular since the decline of the Romantic Ballet in the 1850s, but Genée restored it to public favour. A superb dancer, pretty, blonde and charming, she was idolised by the public. As the first president of the Royal Academy of Dance she later helped establish ballet in Britain.
Genée's hunting solo in the ballet High Jinks was one of her most popular dances. She danced both hunter and hunted, depicting the exhilaration of the rider and the nimbleness of the pursued fox. The designer Wilhelm meticulously recreated a riding habit for her, but Genée objected to the accurate but uncomfortable woollen breeches. She got her way and had them changed to silk.
Costume worn by Adeline Genée (1878 -1970) as Madame Prevost in the ballet La Danse, designed by Wilhelm, Paris, France, 1912
Costume worn by Adeline Genée (1878 - 1970) as Madame Prevost in the ballet La Danse, designed by Wilhelm, Paris, France, 1912. Museum no. S.1460-1982