Anna Pavlova dances in New Zealand for the first time

26 May 1926

Anna Pavlova, 1926
Anna Pavlova, 1926 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-019151-F)

The world’s best-known ballerina performed her famed ‘Dying Swan’ and ‘Fairy Doll’ to a full house in His Majesty’s Theatre, Auckland. Reporters were enraptured: ‘Pavlova … is superb. An artist to the tips of her twinkling toes, every fibre of her lithe body seems to respond to the music.’

Her 66-strong company (counting the orchestra) included former Wellingtonian Thurza Rogers. It spent six weeks in New Zealand, playing three different programmes in each of the four main centres. Other highlights included adaptations of The Magic Flute and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

The petite ‘Madame’ Pavlova took time out to dispense lifestyle advice – eat plenty of green vegetables and fruit, avoid red meat and potatoes, walk whenever you can – and even to assist the victim of a motorcycle accident in Christchurch. Back in Australia, she praised New Zealanders’ hospitality while hinting that they had not fully understood her artistry – and complaining that their houses were too cold.

The first known recipe for the pavlova dessert in the form we now know it was published in New Zealand in 1929.

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