2 3 Throwback Thursday and Pearl Argyle | Ballet Webb

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Throwback Thursday and Pearl Argyle

Throwback Thursday and Pearl Argyle

Born on November 7, 1910 in Johannesburg South Africa, Pearl Wellman was the daughter of Ernest James and Mary Wellman. When the family relocated to England she began studying dance with Marie Rambert and Nicolas Legat. This appears to be when she began using the name Pearl Argyle. She performed with Rambert’s Ballet Club, the precursor of Ballet Rambert.

During this time, Frederick Ashton was a principal dancer with Rambert’s school and he noticed Pearl. He was later said to have called her “the most beautiful woman of her generation”. Pearl soon became his muse and he created roles for her in several of his early ballets, such as ‘Façade’ (1931) and ‘Lady of Shalott (1931).

In 1933, she left London and traveled to Paris, where she performed with George Balanchine’s Les Ballets 1933. But the next year she returned to the Ballet Club where she danced many different roles including Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty. She is said to have been the first British ballerina to perform his choreography of the grand pas de deux in Act III. In 1935 she joined the Vic-Wells Ballet as a principal dancer.

Pearl also appeared in movies, including That Night in London, Chu Chin Chow, Adventure Ltd., Royal Cavalcade ,Things to Come, Three Artists, and Night in December. She married German film director Curtis Bernhardt, and when war broke out in Europe, they moved to Los Angeles. 

On January 29, 1947, at age 36, Pearl died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. She is buried in Glendale, California.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:
Dance History Factoid #135:  
“Pearl Argyle was a South African ballerina who also appeared in movies.”

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Jaachynma N.E. Agu, The Prince and the Pauper

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