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Mlle. Dazie

Biography: 

"Crazy toe dancer" Mlle. Dazie was a Broadway novelty from her New York premier at Keith & Proctor’s Vaudeville house in 1903 as "La Belle Dazie" to her stint in the Morris Gest beauty extravaganza "Aphrodite" in 1919. Her combination of classical ballet (she was trained at the Russian Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg during 1898-99) and eccentric dancing fascinated a generation of theater-goers young and old. She appeared in the 1905 children's theatrical cartoon-comedy, "Buster Brown," in pantomime matinee's at Hammerstein's Opera House in 1906, and in the very first Ziegfeld Follies of 1907 doing the "Jui-Jitsu Waltz" and a Salome dance. She returned as featured dancer in 1908.

As the foremost ballet comedian of her day, she enlivened comic operas, pantomimes, and Broadway revues. While touring her pantomime "Love of the Artist," in 1909, Mlle. Dazie was accidentally stabbed on stage when a performer picked up a real knife instead of a prop. True story or ballyhoo? Mlle. Dazie was not above applying the publicity ploys of her former employer Florenz Ziegfeld to keep her name in print. Recovered from her wound, Mlle. Dazie attempted later in 1909 to secure Butler Davenport's West 63rd Street playhouse in order to set up a company, based on the Parisian Theatre Antoine, performing pantomimes, ballets, and classic plays. The plan never came to pass. She comforted herself in the success of her appearances at the first two Winter Garden shows.

In 1912, Dazie expanded her range, speaking on stage for the first time in the final act of "The Master of the House." She was concurrently employed as a solo dancer in "The Merry Countess" in a nearby theater and rushed between houses to perform an evening's duties. In 1914, while playing in J. M. Barrie's "Pantaloon," she revealed she had married horseman and entrepreneur, Cornelius Fellowes, Jr. Throughout the mid-teens, Mlle. Dazie maintained her own dance company, that toured vaudeville as a headline act. The dancers experimented in creating a fusion of ballet, pantomime, and popular dance that presaged classical theatrical dancing in the 1920s musicals. In 1918, headlining at the Palace, she did a "toe rag" and an airplane dance, while partner Ed Janis did "an eccentric jazz," the first citation in mainstream print of jazz dance (NY Times Jul 16, 1918).

In 1919, as Dazie undertook her last role on Broadway in "Aphrodite," she received an unexpected accolade when a prize winning race horse was named for her. In 1920 she retired to enjoy the proceeds of her husband's business ventures in New York and Miami Beach. She died in 1952. David S. Shields/ALS