Realising a childhood dream

A young girl is wearing ballet tutu and ballet shoes. The photo is a hand-tinted black and white photo.
Realising a childhood dream
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Kellerman’s childhood ballet training helped to hone her precision diving, and ballet was an important of her vaudeville act. When she lived in the US she took daily lessons from Luigi Albertieri, master of ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

Her childhood ambitions to be a ballerina were fulfilled when she performed the Dying Swan solo at a benefit at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1916. According to Kellerman expert Peter Cox she referred to it as the ‘supreme moment of my life’.

Kellerman's vaudeville act capitalised on her broad range of talents including: swimming, high diving, ballet, acrobatics, wire walking, acting, underwater ballet, singing, speaking multiple languages, diabolo, physical culture training, tap dancing, and playing the piano accordian and the violin. At one time she even included a drag act in her shows – dressing up as 'The English Johnny'.

The extraordinary athletic abilities Kellerman possessed are even more impressive given that she was diagnosed with rickets as a young child. Swimming was prescribed as part of her therapy for the condition.

Looking back on her life she wrote, 'My early physical misfortune has turned out to be the greatest blessing that could have come to me. Without it I should have missed the grim struggle upward and the reward that waited at the end of it all.'

Notes by Beth Taylor