Dancing Dora Duby

The dark, glamorous and exotic sounding Dora Duby was an outstanding American solo dancer who found fame in Europe during the 1920s particularly in Paris where she was called the ‘Pet star’ of the famous Le Perroquet cabaret.

Dora Duby in Paris

Dora Duby was born 9th October 1902 in Seattle Washington (although some sources say it was California). At the age of twelve she became a pupil of the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who sent her to New York to study under Luigi Albertieri, the Italian dancer and ballet master who also taught Fred Astaire. Between 1913 and 1927 Albertieri was ballet master of the New York Metropolitan Opera House where he staged many ballets and operas. After her training, Dora Duby spent two years with Pavlova’s ballet company before leaving to specialise in modern acrobatic dancing.

Her career in Broadway started with appearances in the musical The Lady in Red (a brief run in mid 1919), followed by the Charlotte Greenwood vehicle Linger Longer Letty (late 1919) and then the Shubert’s’ cabaret show The Midnight Rounders of 1921 in the roof of the Century theatre. In October 1921 she landed a more prominent role in the Shubert Brothers musical revue extravaganza Bombo at the Jolson’s 59th Street Theatre starring Al Johson. The show also featured the celebrated dancing duo Cortez and Peggy.

In June 1923 there were startling reports that she was suing millionaire Harold Grier of the Dominion Glass Company, Montreal for breaking a promise of matrimony. Duby alleged that they met on one of Grier’s regular trips to New York, they enjoyed a courtship and he proposed on 15th January but failed to go through with his promise and so she sued for $100,000. His lawyers offered $1,000. Dora was dancing at the Hotel Walton in Philadelphia at the time and it is not known if she accepted the offer.

Dora Duby in 1927

Whatever the outcome, she decided to cross the Atlantic after being secured by Albert de Courville for his revue The Whirl of the World at the Palladium theatre, London that ran from March 1924. Within a month she was doubling up in the new cabaret being staged at the Piccadilly Hotel. Edward Dolly’s Dolly’s Revels was a lively new experience that had been launched in the Ballroom of the Piccadilly in February 1924. Eddie changed the programme regularly and Dora endured through several incarnations in April and May.

By the summer of 1924 she had crossed the channel and was experiencing the delights of Paris. In July she joined the cabaret at the Club Daunou (renamed the 400 Club) and appeared with the Tomson Twins (a British pair of dancers). For the autumn season she became the featured performer at the ultra-fashionable cabaret Le Perroquet above the foyer of the Casino de Paris. It was here that she renewed her acquaintance with a young Alexander Morgan Hamilton (grandson of the financier J.P. Morgan), who rumour claimed chased her across the ocean to marry her. When Duby arrived back in New York in late November with Alexander Hamilton aboard the Majestic, she denied rumours of a romance. She simply said that he had paid her some attention in Paris and so people assumed they were together. She also said that she had no confirmed theatrical contracts and was planning to return to Europe in the New Year.

Dora Duby in 1925

When Duby returned to Europe she appeared at various Riviera resorts in February including the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo and a charity event in Cannes before she returned to Paris. Once again she was the star attraction at Le Perroquet at the beginning of March 1925. By May she was appearing with the American dancers Bernard and Rich at Harry Pilcer’s Acacias nightspot and then at the Abbaye d’Theleme in July. During September she was the attraction at the luxurious Villa des Fleurs in Aix le Bains before returning to Paris to be featured at Ciro’s restaurant in October.

The virtuosity of her acrobatic dancing and her undoubted popularity secured a major featured role in the new spectacular revue Paris En Fleurs at the Casino de Paris, launched 28th November 1925. The show starred the Dolly Sisters, Maurice Chevalier, Yvonne Valle, Madeleine Loys and Rowe Sisters and ran through 1926. At the same time Duby doubled month after month at Le Perrequet such was her popularity.

After eight months at the Casino de Paris and Le Perroquet she left Paris for Venice where she opened for three weeks at the Excelsior Lido on 25th July 1926, followed by appearances at the Casino in Deauville and in Bairritz where she danced before the King and Queen of Belgians and King Alphonso of Spain. Then she took a trip to Vienna appearing in Hubert Marischka’s revue Wien Lacht Wieder, at the Stadtheater for eleven months. At the end of her engagement she made a trip back to New York for a few weeks before returning to Europe in Mid-November.

For the next six months at least she starred in an undisclosed show that was taken to China and India. On her return to France in August 1928 she visited Aix Le Bains and presumably performed at the Villa des Fleurs once again. What happened in 1929 is not clear but she visited New York three times in the Spring, late summer and winter. During the latter trip she visited Palm Beach and described as ‘the girl with the most beautiful legs in the world’ danced at the Embassy Club wearing a stunning and colourful gown by Worth made of bird of paradise feathers valued at $1,500 for a two-week engagement from 19th January 1930.

Dora Duby in the late 1920s

Allegedly she returned to Paris at the end of February but it is not known what she was doing but perhaps she performed once again in cabaret. In August 1930 she was caught up in tragic events. The French duo Edmonde Guy and Ernest Van Duren were suffering professional and emotional turmoil and Guy had been dancing with a new partner Jack Forrester. Dora Duby was impressed with Van Duren and tried to secure him as her own dancing partner but failed. After she left for Buenos Aires and a tour of South America, Van Duren tragically died of complications from alcohol and narcotic ingestion.

On her return to Europe in 1931, Duby was disillusioned with her career and spent two years studying at the famous Mary Wigman school in Berlin. Wigman was a pioneer of expressionist dance and became an iconic cultural figure in Weimer Germany and a leading figure in the history of European dance.

In late 1932 when she arrived back in New York, Duby said ‘danclng is no longer just a question of legs and arms. Dancers must have an idea and then they must convey it to their audiences. It takes head work.’ She was preparing to back up her theories in a series of recitals showing the modern dances that she evolved during two years study. It was observed that the glittering costumes she wore before had been swept away since her new thinking was that costumes should be colourful and fascinating but not so glamorous that they detract from the dancer. Equally, the musical comedy steps and the crash of jazz, which accompanied her pirouettes, were also banished. In their place she wore costumes designed by modern artists and performed to piano music written by modern composers such as Ravel or Debussy.

Seemingly thereafter Duby continued to divide her time between Europe and America and by 1936 she had become Director of the Mexico Government Dance school, but her career was not as colourful as it had been.

All images and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent

Sources:

Dancing Times, the Sketch, the Stage, the Era, New York Times. Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, Miami News, Variety, The Sunday Referee, L’Officiel de la mode, Chicago Tribune, Tatler, Palm Beach Daily News

The Paris That’s Not in the Guide Books by Basil Woon

Information about Alexander Morgan Hamilton

Information about Mary Wigman

Dora Duby Chronology

1902   Born 9/10/02 Seattle Washington
1919   The Lady in Red (12/5/19 – 21/6/1919)
1919   Linger Longer Letty (20/11/19 – 21/1/20)
1921   The Midnight Rounders, Century Promenade – Shuberts (5/2/21-2/4/21)
1921   Bombo (6/10/21-8/4/22)
1923   Arrived NYC 1/3/23 aboard Fort St George from Bermuda
1923   Whirl of the World, London (From March)
1924   Dolly’s Revels, Piccadilly Hotel (May thro June)
1924   Club Daunou, Paris with the Tomson Twins (July)
1924   Le Perroquet, Paris (Sep)
1924   Arrived NYC 25/11/24 aboard the Majestic from Cherbourg
1925   Le Perroquet, Paris (Feb)
1925   Cannes Red Cross Gala (Feb)
1925   Cafe De Paris, Monte Carlo (Feb)
1925   Le Perroquet, Paris (Mar)
1925   Acacias, Paris (May)
1925   Abbaye, Paris (June)
1926   Aix Le Bains – Villa des Fleurs (Sep)
1925   Ciro’s, Paris (Sep)
1925   Paris En Fleurs, Casino de Paris (from Nov – July 1926)
1925   Le Perroquet, Paris – doubling at the Casino de Paris (Dec)
1925   Le Perroquet, Paris (Jan)
1926   Le Perroquet, Paris (Jun)
1926   Lido, Venice (July)
1926   Deauville (Aug) & Bairritz (Sept)
1926   Wien Lacht Wieder, Stadtheater Vienna (2/10/26-20/9/27 )
1927   In NYC (Sept-Oct)
1928   China & India
1928   Aix Le Bains (Aug)
1929   Leaves NYC for Paris (Mar)
1930   Palm Beach Embassy Club (Jan)
1930   South America?
1931   Berlin – dance classes at Mary Wigman school for two years
1932   Returns to NYC (Nov)
1936   Dancing and teaching in Mexico
1936   Returns to NYC as a recitalist (Oct)
1937   Barziban-Plaza Dancing (Jan)

3 Responses to “Dancing Dora Duby”

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