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The Astaires

Posted on April 27, 2012

fred-and-adele-squareFred and Adele Astaire, major stars of the Jazz Age, are celebrated in an event at London’s National Theatre on Friday, May 4. Choreographer Matthew Bourne joins Fred’s daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie and author Kathleen Riley. The event is prompted by Riley’s new book, The Astaires: Fred and Adele, which examines Fred Astaire’s first great dancing partnership, with his sister Adele.

 

Starting as child performers in vaudeville, the Astaires made their Broadway debut in 1917, when Fred was 18 and Adele was 21. They became international stars, feted on both sides of the Atlantic. “Have you seen Fred and Adele Astaire in Stop Flirting?” asked Dancing World. “Nothing like them since the Flood.”

 

They worked regularly with George and Ira Gershwin; Fritz Kreisler and Jerome Kern also wrote music for shows starring the Astaires. Fred caused a minor scandal by dancing the Charleston with Lady Mountbatten, who was rebuked by Queen Mary. Adele – who was considered the bigger star during their partnership – became friends with the Prince of Wales, and later married into the British aristocracy.

 

Riley will discuss this Jazz Age partnership and its legacy with Ava Astaire McKenzie and Matthew Bourne on Friday, May 4. The event starts at 6pm, running for 45 minutes, and is followed by a book signing by Kathleen Riley. Tickets cost £4 (£3 concessions) and are available from the National Theatre website.

 

The Astaires: Fred and Adele is published by Oxford University Press.

 

Picture: Adele and Fred Astaire returning to New York aboard the RMS Majestic, June 1927. Photograph: Photofest

 

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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