April 20 - 26, 2014: Issue 159

 Her Majesty’s Theatre 1962 Programme - Luisillo and his Spanish Dance Theatre 

Collecting theatre programmes is not only an inexpensive way to catalogue the great histories that are shown in these items (many are filled with advertisements for other products and services) they also provide a great insight into the styles of art and photography, as photographs became incorporated, the people who filled all those spots in the limelight, and list who was doing what in these theatrical companies. 

Theatre programmes are often of great interest to historians, curators and genealogists as they provide a wealth of information about theatre and associated topics. They also, of course, provide a ready source of your own memories.

If you wish to resell these a good point of value is those that are older do not necessarily command the bigger prices. Those that are rare and display some incidents about more famous people or those such as Royal Programmes are currently attracting the higher bids. 

This week we found a Programme for Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, production of Luisillo and his Spanish Dance Theatre. Comprising 24 pages, half of these filled with advertisements for TAA and Ansett as well as ‘eating houses’ close to the theatre, the bulk of the Programme still gives you some background information on the Principal. From that we found; 

Luisllo(Luis Perez Davila) and his performers.  Luisillo forms part, in a distinguished way, of that small group  of dancers who, in and out of Spain, tread out the Iberian dances in all their styles, forms and epochs.  For the past few years it has been Luisillo who has most brought into relief in the Spanish dance that richness that all the peninsular folklore contains, always maintaining the purest essence of the work.

Spanish by direct descendance, by "the sacred inheritance of the blood", he knows how to feel and transmit the warmth of the flamenco flames, the sweetness of the Castilians, the vigour of the Basque country; in short, all Spain runs through his veins.

As a choreographer he is conscious that his work and his style are unique and different from all the rest, and this places him at the head of all the existing choreographers without any dispute. Abstract or highly realistic, he brings to the stage his conception of the dance in choreographies that his great temperament and unquestionable artistic capacity inspire in him. He moves his dances within the preciseness and rhythm of any Spanish music, making them one more instrument in the score.

The great Spanish poet, Jose Antonio Ochaita, in a prologue dedicated to Luisillo, says: "You are made as if among the fibres of your body were interwoven the fibres of the purest Spanish art, the art of the dances of Andalusia, Castilla, Galicia, Aragon; of this great nation that always and for everything sings and dances, of my Spain, of your Spain, of our Spain".

José Antonio Ochaíta (n. Jadraque , Guadalajara , Spain , 1905 - f.Pastrana , Guadalajara, Spain, 1973 ) was a playwright , poet and folklorist Spanish , chronicler official in the province of Guadalajara. He studied at the Colegio de San Ildefonso in Madrid . He studied Philosophy at Salamanca, where he studied with Miguel de Unamuno. Later he went to study in Galicia where he met Ramón María del Valle-Inclan , was editor of the Faro de Vigo and joined the Royal Galician Academy of Letters. He taught grammar at school Salesian school in Guadalajara and Labor of Vigo. He was also a member of the Real Academia Sevillana of Letters .

Luisillo and his Spanish Dance Theatre came to Australia under the banner of the J. C. Williamson organisation on four tours, initiallyin 1958 and again in 1962, 1967 and 1976. The company toured Australia extensively on each of these occasions.

The company's first Australian tour began at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide, on 30 January 1958 with subsequent shows in Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle, and Melbourne. The company then toured to Christchurch, New Zealand, before returning to Australia for further performances in Adelaide, Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Brisbane and Sydney. The 1958 Australian tour included performances of Sinfonia Sevillana, Gitanos de la Alpujarra, Polo, El Ciego, Ronda Huertana,Pregones Madrilenos, Nocturno Flamenco, Sonatas, Gigantes y Cabezudos, and Café Flamenco. All works on the program had choreography, lighting and artistic direction attributed to Luisillo.

Dancers who appeared in the first tour included Mercedes Ramos billed as the 'star ballerina', Maria Vivo a principal dancer and singer, Teresa Amaya a 'gypsy dancer', Carmen Aracena, Marino Morijo, Fina Vivo, Jose Altamira, Hernando Monroy, Flor Arauz, Manolo Robles, Antonia Mena, Enrique Cagigal, Pablo Canas, Serafin de Andres a dancer and flamenco guitarist, Francisco-Melendez, and Alicia Fernandez.

The company's second Australian tour of 1962, which saw them occasionally billed as Luisillo y su Teatro de Danza Espanola, included performances in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, a second Melbourne season, Newcastle, before finishing with a second Sydney season. The company travelled on to perform in Wellington, New Zealand. The company performed two programs of works, the first included Sanclucar de Barrameda, Sierra Bermeja, Romance Cordobes, Rias Baixas, Homenaje a la Seguiriya, and Gigantes y Cabezudos. The second program included Sinfonia Sevillana, Trigales de Trebujena, Polo, El Ciego, Ronda Huertana, Pregones Madrilenos, Gran Fandango, and Venta de los Pinares.

In 1967 Luisillo and his Spanish Dance Company retuned to Australia, brought by J. C. Williamson Ltd. and Edgley and Dawe. The company's tour, billed as Festival of Spain, included performances in Bundaberg, Rockhamton, Mackay, Innisfail, Cairns and Townsville, as well as Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. The program for the company included performances of Capricho Espanol, Tu y Yo, Bolero, Fantasia Gallega and Flamenco del Rocio.

The fourth Australian tour in 1976 saw the company perform a series of works, including Evocacion, Nocturno, Requium Para un Terero, Gigantes y Cabezudos, Coreortimos, and Flamenco. from National Library of Australia records

Luisillo – born in Mexico City 1927, died in Madrid 16.11.2007 at the age of 81 – was a Spanish dancer and choreographer of rare theatrical talent. He received many honours: the Gold Medal from the theatre La Fenice in Venice; the Eurovision Gold Medal for his ballet Don Quijote (music: Torroba) when it was televised; other gold medals from Mexico and Wales; a Silver Giralda from Seville; and finally in 1989 the Cross of Isabella la Católica from King Juan Carlos I in recognition of his 50 years in dance. He was very religious and received the award of Ben Meditate from the Secretary of State of the Vatican for his production during a world reunion of Gypsies. His company, Teatro de la Danza Española, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2001.

Luisillo took Spanish dance in its full glory of regional, classical and flamenco all over the world. The very theatrical presentations of his company caused dancers and musicians of all nationalities to flock to Spain to study. He helped every single dancer or guitarist once they arrived in Spain. His influence inspired the teachers of South Africa to raise the teaching of Spanish dance by setting a syllabus for an examination system, and he then became the Patron of the Spanish Dance Society that they founded - now a worldwide organisation. Many members of the Spanish Dance Society in South Africa joined Luisillo's company and should write about their experiences of him and his ballets. Rhoda Rivkind has a wonderful story about the dancers illegally cooking their supper in the dressing room upstairs in a theatre. He visited South Africa five times in ten years and, with the two visits by Greco and Antonio, raised the interest in South Africa to a fever pitch.

He worshipped Carmen Amaya, his Flamenco teacher and mentor. He had wanted to become bullfighter, but after seeing her dance, he became obsessed by the world of Flamenco. His debut in Madrid with her company was in 1948. He married vivacious Teresa Viera Romero from Amaya's company in 1950, and they danced together as "Teresa y Luisillo". He choreographed many ballets such as Blood on the Moon and Carmen (about Carmen Amaya), and he presented Spain's rich folklore in ballets with themes from Zaragoza, Valencia, La Mancha and Galicia.  

He was a stickler for tidiness. We once stood at the back of the Alhambra Theatre in Cape Town and watched the orchestra struggle to fit into the small orchestra pit. They gave up, and spilled over the sides into the auditorium. He looked at me and said, "Ontidy no?". I said, "I suppose so." He rushed down to the stage front and shoved them back into the pit! My husband said that it probably led to violinists poking out neighbouring musicians’ eyes! 

His humour was wicked and knew no bounds. I remember with great nostalgia all the wonderful laughter that we shared for fifty-two years. He is survived by his two former wives, by his son Luisito, a theatre technician, and by his daughter Maria Vivo, a dancer. DAME MARINA KEET (UK).



Phone: BW 4451. Telegraphic Address: "Stofel", Sydney.

LONDON REPRESENTATIVE: Charles Doming, Panton House, 25 Haymarket, London SW 1.

AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVE: Agnes Doyle, 15 Park Avenue, New York

Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney, Australia, refers to three theatres of the same name: One was a theatre which opened on 10 September 1887 and closed on 10 June 1933. It was located on the corner of Pitt and Market Street, Sydney, where Centrepoint stands today. 

The second was located in Quay Street. It had opened with the show "Sunny" in 1927 as the Empire Theatre. When J.C. Williamson wanted a long run for My Fair Lady, they renamed the theatre Her Majesty's. The theatre barely survived the 1960s and was destroyed by fire. The third was also located at 107 Quay Street, Haymarket (near Central Station). It opened in 1975 but is no longer standing. Apartments were built on the site.

James Cassius Williamson (August 26, 1845 – July 6, 1913) was an American actor and later Australia's foremost theatrical manager, founding J. C. Williamson Ltd. 

J. C. Williamson, c. 1868

Born in Pennsylvania, Williamson moved with his family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father died when he was eleven years old. He acted in amateur theatricals and joined a local theatre company as a call-boy at the age of 15, soon taking roles and eventually moving to New York where he played for several years at Wallack's Theatre and then other New York theatres. In 1871, he became the leading comedian at the California Theatre in San Francisco and the next year married comedienne Maggie Moore.

The two found success touring in Australia, and then playing in London, the U.S. and elsewhere in a comedy called Struck Oil. In 1879, Williamson obtained the right to present H.M.S. Pinafore and then other Gilbert and Sullivan operas in Australia. He soon formed his Royal Comic Opera Company. In 1881, Williamson became the lessee of the Theatre Royal, and the next year he entered into a partnership with Arthur Garner and George Musgrove, expanding to own more theatres and bringing famous actors to Australia, such as Sarah Bernhardt, H. B. Irving and (Dame) Nellie Melba, and becoming known for spectacular, large-scale productions.

He leased Her Majesty's Theatre in Sydney, and in 1902 mounted the biggest production in its history, Ben Hur, at a cost of £14,000. With a running time of nearly four hours, the production contained huge choral numbers, marches and a spectacular chariot race, with horses galloping on a treadmill in front of a moving backdrop. The music was composed by American Edward Stillman Kelly and remained popular for some years. A bubonic plague outbreak temporarily closed the theatre soon afterwards, and it was burnt down with huge losses. But Williamson organized a Shakespeare company at the Theatre Royal and rebuilt the theatre in 1903. The next year he entered partnership with George Tallis, his Melbourne manager, and with Gustav Ramaciotti as legal adviser. Visually sensational shows were now 'the Firm's' speciality, and the organisation had grown to employ 650 people.

After 1907, Williamson moved his family to Europe and, his old partners having left, he hired capable managers and changed the theatre company's name to J. C. Williamson Ltd. Williamson died in 1913, but he left a strong theatrical empire that became the largest theatrical firm in the world, with extensive film and property holdings. After Williamson died in 1913, his company — at one time the largest theatrical firm in the world — continued to operate under various managing directors, including, for many years, Sir George Tallis, and then the five Tait brothers, Charles (1868–1933), John (1871–1955), James Nevin (1876–1961), Edward (1878–1947) and Frank (1883–1965). In 1920, their production company, J. & N. Tait, merged with the J. C. Williamson Film Company. The firm continued to present musical comedy and operetta, including the extremely successful The Maid of the Mountains, beginning in 1917. Gladys Moncrieff was a hit as Teresa, appearing in over 2,800 performances of the musical. In 1930, James Nevin became manager of the Williamson London office. The company's activities even extended to London's West End, where it produced, among others, seasons of the musicals High Jinks (in 1916), and Mr. Cinders, together with the revue Coo-ee! and the plays Little Accident and Coquette, in 1929.

In 1937, New Zealand businessman Sir John McKenzie became chairman, and Ernest C. Rolls was appointed to the board and made managing director and principal producer of J. C. Williamson. By 1938, the Tait brothers were running Williamson's property and investment company. In 1941, Viola Hogg Wilson, a former principal soprano with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company who had toured with the Williamson company beginning in 1940, married Frank Tait, later becoming an artistic director of the company. By 1943, the brothers were also running J. C. Williamson Theatres, Ltd., and Frank eventually became managing director. In 1958, John McCallum became assistant managing director to Frank. In 1961, The Australian Ballet Foundation was formed, and Frank was appointed chairman. Frank died in 1965. 

In addition to operating its film company and its property and investments company, J. C. Williamson Ltd. (whose name changed many times over the years), continued to produce seasons of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, seasons of operetta, musical comedy, straight plays, pantomimes and occasional musical revues, and later grand opera, ballet seasons, and concert tours by visiting celebrity singers and musicians, at the many theatres that it owned or leased throughout Australia and New Zealand until 1976, when the company wound-up and leased out its name.

J. C. Williamson. (2013, June 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:39, April 9, 2014, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=J._C._Williamson&oldid=561840010

Original Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney. Corner of Pitt and Market Street, Date c. 1884-191. Kerry and Co, Sydney, Australia, courtesy Powerhouse Museum Tyrell Collection on Flickr.

Researched and compiled by A J Guesdon, 2014.