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Friday, March 23, 2012

Audubon - The Lost Ballet

John James Audubon
For those of you from Natchez, Mississippi, if you lived here anywhere between 1935 or so through somewhere in the 1980s, you were familiar with the Pilgrimage tableau ballet titled "Audubon."  

Choreographed by longtime ballet instructor Martha Hootsell, it was perhaps the most beautiful and loved tableau of the Confederate Pageant.  The ballet was based on the fact that John James Audubon spent time in Natchez painting wildlife and teaching dance.

As I remember it, the dancers were split up evenly between women in long, romantic tutus and "men" in formal masculine attire that just happened to look perfectly lovely on women.  

There was one lead dancer, who represented Audubon, himself.  Originally there was only one "male" representing Audubon among a confection of lovely lady ballerinas.

The pageant lost the Audubon ballet when the choreography was copyrighted and the owner moved away.  It leaves a large hole in the hearts of Natchezians who grew up with it.  Its loss is as bittersweet as the childhood memories of the smell of our mothers'  lipstick and the sound of violins on warm spring nights when beauty and magic were in the air.

Surrounding Anne Bahin, left to right, starting left front - June Spencer, Mary Ann Brandon, Dot Oriane, Denver Jenkins, ?, Mary Glen (?Smith), ?, Kathleen ?, ?. The two on far left are ?, Carolyn ?. Four on far right, starting in the back are Edith Mae Odom, Bettye McGehee, ?, ?. 
These photographs are sent courtesy of Michelle McMillan Henderson and feature photos of her late mother in-law Mrs. Anne Henderson, née Bahin, dancing the lead in 1941. 

There's also a photo that's guessed to be around 1940 her in the tableau, The Wedding of Jefferson Davis and Varina Howell.

And the last photo is from 1937 showing the ladies of the DAR.

We are trying to identify the women in these photographs, so if any of you can help us out, we'd certainly appreciate it.

To see large versions of the photos, simply click on them.

Many thanks to Michelle for sharing these photos with us.
Unknown man, far left; Mrs. Anne Henderson, née Bahin; unknown child, center; Lawrence Adams and Evelyn Forman, far right
This was some sort of DAR convention and several of the ladies were from out of town. The ones from Natchez are: Front row - Dot Stone, unknown, unknown, Helen Lanneau and Helen Smith Rayne. Back row - Anne Bahin, Judy Benoist, Mary Jane Smith Hornsby, and last three unknown.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Shantybellum ! How are you ? My name's David Henrotay, I live in Brussels, Belgium and I'm a dream gown image collector. My tastes vary from masters paintings to nowadays fashions, with a strong attraction to 1860s Southern Belles, among many other styles. It was a while since I wanted to congratulate you for this precise page I stumbled upon one day while roaming the net for old photos of Natchez Tableaux re-enactments scenes. As those, especially during the 1930s and way up to the 1980s, were adorned with women wearing the most beautiful gowns for their shows. Looking at your ballet photos featured on this very page, I fell in awe because they are sooo pretty... So to say it short, I was wondering if you happen to have any larger versions of these photos, and if you happen to have just ANY vintage photos of those charming ladies in beautiful gowns. I'd be so grateful if you could show me some. I also imagined making a city trip to Natchez one day to attend a Tableau, but also to go look for these photos, whether they'd be in frames hanging on the walls of all those nice places to visit, but also books in libraries and even museums. I haven't yet the least clue on how to find them, but it would be quite a pretty picture hunt to do... ^__^ Thank you very much for your help ! :-) David