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Hélène Kirsova with a rope
, c. 1938

by Max Dupain

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 58.2 cm x 45.5 cm, image: 46.0 cm x 33.5 cm)

Hélène Kirsova (1910-1962), dancer, was born Ellen Wittrup Hansen in Copenhagen. She trained in Paris, toured with various companies in South America and danced in Paris and London before becoming a founding member of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in 1932. In 1936 she came to Australia as a leading artist with the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, sparkling in Petrouchka and Le Carnaval. She returned to England in 1937 but came back to Sydney early in 1938 to marry. In 1940 she began a ballet school in Sydney, and the following year she established the Kirsova Ballet, Australia's first professional ballet company. She was an important patron of Australian artists, composers and set designers, and took on some youngsters such as Peggy Sager who would later enjoy significant local careers. The Kirsova Ballet folded in 1944, but Kirsova kept her school running until she retired to Europe in the late 1940s.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Rex Dupain 2003
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2003.80