Katie Seymour

Katie Seymour (9 January 1870 – 7 September 1903)[1][2][3] was a British Victorian burlesque and Edwardian musical comedy entertainer who was remembered primarily for her dancing. She was considered, if not the first, one of the first to perform a style of dance called the skirt dance.[4] Seymour began in song and dance routines at a very young age and would go on to appear in a string of highly successful long-running musicals staged at London's Gaiety Theatre during the 1890s. She fell ill in 1903 while on a theatrical tour of British South Africa and died not long after her return voyage home.[5]

Katie Seymour
Katie Seymour as Alice in A Runaway Girl
Born9 January 1870 (1870-01-09)
Nottingham, England
Died7 September 1903 (1903-09-08) (aged 33)
London, England
Other namesKate Seymour Athol
OccupationBritish dancer

Early life

Catherine Phoebe Seymour was born in Nottingham to showfolk, William John Seymour and Phoebe Towers. Her father was a music hall comedian and singer, while her mother came from a noted family of actors.[6] Seymour never attended dance classes, but instead received her early instructions from her mother who had been trained in an Italian style of classical dance.[3][7]

Career 1875–1890

She first appeared on stage in 1875 as a member of Mr. Chatterton's Children's Pantomime Company[8] and the following year, billed as, 'the Little Wonder', six-year-old Seymour sang and danced a version of the hornpipe on 13 March at The Town Hall, London.[2] That Christmas at London's Adelphi Theatre she was one of eighteen children to perform in a pantomime E. L. Blanchard based on the fairy tale, Little Goody Two-Shoes and Her Sweetheart Little Boy-Blue. In the play, which also included eleven-year-old Connie Gilchrist as Harlequin, Seymour played Colin, a peasant boy, Puck, and a tricksy dancing spirit.[9] A few years later, in fall 1879, she was Tim, a tiger, in a burlesque piece at London's Philharmonic Theatre entitled, Drury-lane and Park-lane.[10]

By 3 April 1881, Seymour was listed as one of the variety performers with the Middlesex Music Hall, Drury Lane[11] and by 14 September 1884, she was a performing at the Sun Palace of Varieties, Knightsbridge.[12] The following month she was appearing at both the Middlesex Music Hall and the Royal Foresters' Music Hall, Graydon's Palace of Varieties, Cambridge Road.[13] By February 1885 at Deacon's Music Hall, Clerkenwell, Seymour was appearing in a comedy sketch with the Three Brothers Horn entitled Juggins Junior.[14] From February 1886 through July 1889 Seymour appeared as a variety entertainer at the Royal Holborn Theatre, London Pavilion and the Empire Theatre of Varieties (now the Empire, Leicester Square).[15][16][17][18][19]

Over the 1889–90 season Seymour toured America as a dancer with Professor Hermann's Transatlantiques Vaudevilles company. During the tour one American press release described Seymour as having hair that streamed down her shoulders like rivers of gold.[20] and another declared Dainty Katie Seymour dances like a fairy or butterfly.[21] By July 1890 she was a member of the Bank Holiday Company at London's Oxford Music Hall.[22]

Career 1891–1902

Seymour made her debut at the Gaiety Theatre on 31 September 1891 as a dancer in Joan of Arc an opéra bouffe by John L. Shine, Adrian Ross and composer Frank Osmond Carr. In mid-December Joan of Arc transferred to the Shaftesbury Theatre where it remained through January 1892. A critic with the St. James Gazette wrote of Seymour's first night's performance in Joan of Arc:

Miss Katie Seymour, who used to dance so prettily at music-halls, now dances more prettily in a pas seul, pas de deux (her cleverest performance) and a pas de trois. Miss Lethbridge[23] is really the more graceful of the two, but Miss Seymour is the more piquant.[24]

On 6 February 1892 at the Prince of Wales's Theatre, Seymour danced in the debut of Blue-Eyed Susan, a comic opera by George R. Sims, Henry Pettitt and Frank Osmond Carr based on Douglas Jerrold's Black Eyed Susan.[25][26] Seymour stayed with Black Eyed Susan through June, after which she assumed the role of Fettalana to Letty Lind's Cinder-Ellen and Sylvia Grey's Linconsina for the last few performances at the Grand Theatre of the popular burlesque comedy, Cinder Ellen up too Late.[27][28]

Over the summer and early fall of 1892 Seymour toured with Cinder-Ellen up too Late and remained with the show when it reappeared at the Gaiety Theatre at the beginning of October for a run that would continue until mid-December. A few days after Christmas she was engaged at the Empire Theatre to dance in, Round the Town, described as a characteristic ballet in five tableaux by Katti Lanner and George Edwardes.[28][29][30]

After an eight-month run in Round the Town, Seymour returned to the Gaiety Theatre on 9 September 1893, where she would remain until 1901, to appear in Edwardes' revival of Audran's comic opera La Mascotte,[31] and on 21 October, Don Juan, a burlesque by James T. Tanner, with lyrics and music by Adrian Ross and Meyer Lutz, respectively.[32] During the eight-month run of Don Juan, Seymour teamed up with Edmund Payne in a separate piece entitle, The Candle and the Moth, in which the two performed the Bon-Bon Dance.[33]

Don Juan closed at the end of June 1894 and was followed that November with Seymour in the role of Miss Robinson, a fitter with the Royal Store, in The Shop Girl, a musical comedy H. J. W. Dam and Adrian Ross. The Shop Girl proved to be a huge success with a phenomenal two-year run. From July through November 1896 she was Phoebe Toodge, May's (Ellaline Terriss) maid, in My Girl, another musical comedy from Tanner and Ross. On 5 December Seymour opened as Lucille, a slack wire walker, in The Circus Girl, a musical comedy in two acts by James Tanner and Walter Apllant (aka W. Palings), with lyrics by Harry Greenbank and Adrian Ross, music by Ivan Caryll, with further music from Lionel Monckton.[34] Another hit, The Circus Girl remained at the Gaiety until mid-April 1898 and was followed a month later by A Runaway Girl, a musical comedy by Seymour Hicks and Harry Nichols with music by Ivan Caryll and Lionel Moncton. A Runaway Girl, in which Katie Seymour played Alice, Lady Coodle's maid, closed on 13 July 1900 after run of nearly twenty months.[35] She next played Rosa, another maid (Lady Punchestown's) in The Messenger Boy, a musical comedy in two acts by James T. Tanner and Alfred Murray, lyrics by Adrian Ross and Percy Greenbank, with music by Ivan Caryll and Lionel Monckton, with additional numbers by Paul Rubens. Seymour remained with A Messenger Boy through February 1901.[36]

Counter to George Edwardes' advice, Seymour chose to leave the Gaiety to share top billing with James E. Sullivan in a revival of The Casino Girl[37] that was produced at the Knickerbocker Theatre, Broadway on 8 April 1901.[38] The Casino Girl ran until 11 May after which, toward the end of June, she was engaged at the Knickerbocker as a feature dancer in The Strollers, a musical comedy by Harry B. Smith and Ludwig Englander that starred Francis Wilson.[39]

In May 1901 it was reported in the press that Seymour had become the first woman in New York City to be arrested for speeding. She was stopped on Fifth Avenue, not far from Central Park, for driving at an excessive speed and escorted to a nearby police station where she was assigned a court date and required to pay a modest deposit to encourage her attendance.[40]

By October 1901 Seymour had returned to London where gave her opinion of the state of American dancers to the press:

There are no American dancers except perhaps toe dancers and the cake-walk style. Dancing is not cultivated there as it is here. I am very glad to be at home again.[41]

Later that month Seymour began an engagement at the Alhambra Theatre as variety entertainer that would extend into December and the next year, on 3 February, she opened at the Holloway Empire Theater billed as Katie Seymour and Chorus of Lady Singers and Dancers.[42][43][44]


Seymour died of a renal affliction at a nursing home in the Maida Vale district of London on 7 September 1903. She had become ill while on a tour of South Africa with one of George Edwardes' theatrical companies. Seymour was survived by her husband, Harry Athol, a music hall comedian who had been a member of Professor Hermann's Transatlantiques Vaudevilles during her first American trip. Seymour's well attended funeral services were held at her residence on Burton Road, Brixton and were concluded at Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting.[45][46]

Resources and notes

  1. Birth year derived from an 1876 newspaper article that described her as a six-year-old child and from a number of obituaries and her death certificate that stated her age at the time as thirty-three – England & Wales, Death Index, 1837–1915. Other sources suggest she may have been born in 1868 or 1869
  2. Drawing Room Entertainment. London Stratford Times and Bow and Bromley News and South Essex Gazette, 15 March 1876, p. 5
  3. Gänzl, Kurt, 2001. The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, p. 1837
  4. Knowles, Mark, 2002. The Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing, p. 154 Retrieved 13 February 2014
  5. Death of Miss Kate Seymour. London Daily Mail, 8 September 1903, p. 3
  6. Gänzl, Kurt. 2001, The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, p. 1837
  7. Death of Miss Katie Seymour. Lloyds Weekly News, 13 September 1903, p. 8
  8. Death of Katie Seymour. Lloyds Weekly News, 13 September 1903, p.8
  9. The Adelphi. London Week News, 30 December 1876, p. 14
  10. Philharmonic. Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, 5 October 1879, p. 1
  11. Middlesex Music Hall. Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, London, 3 April 1881, p. 6
  12. The Sun Palace of Varieties, Knightsbridge. Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, London, 14 September 1884, p. 6
  13. Royal Foresters' Music Hall, Graydon's Palace of Varieties, Cambridge Road. Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, London, 26 October 1884, p. 6
  14. Deacon's Music Hall. Clerkenwell Press, London, 25 February 1885, p. 1
  15. Royal Holborn. Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, London, 28 February 1886, p. 6
  16. Royal Holborn. The London Standard, 25 June 1886, p. 1
  17. London Pavilion. London Standard 6 January 1888, p. 1
  18. Royal Holborn. London Standard 26 November 1888, p. 1
  19. Empire Theatre. London Standard 12 July 1889, p. 4
  20. The Stage. Indianapolis Sun, 11 September 1889, p. 3
  21. A Great Hall Show. Decatur Daily Republican, 28 March 1890, p. 1
  22. Oxford. The London Standard, 5 July 1890, p. 1
  23. Alice Lethbridge
  24. The Theatre, Joan of Arc at the Gaiety. London St James Gazette, 1 October 1891, p. 7
  25. "Prince of Wales", London Standard, 26 February 1892, p. 4
  26. Adams, William Davenport. A Dictionary of the Drama, 1904, p. 177
  27. Cackle of the Coulisse. London Evening News and Post, 30 June 1892, p. 2
  28. Gaiety Theatre, Cinder-Ellen up too Late. London Standard, 3 September 1892, p. 4,
  29. Gaiety Theatre. London Standard, 17 December 1892, p. 4,
  30. Empire, Round the Town. London Standard, 29 December 1892, p. 4,
  31. Amusement Notes. London Evening News and Post, 1 September 1893, p. 1
  32. Gaiety Theatre. The London Standard, 16 October 1893, p. 2
  33. Gaiety Theatre. The London Standard, 12 February 1894, p. 4
  34. Gaiety Theatre, London Standard, 26 November 1896, p. 4
  35. Gaiety Theatre. The Football Evening News, 13 January 1900, p. 2
  36. Hollingshead, John, 1903, Good Old Gaiety, pp. 71–73 Retrieved 30 January 2014
  37. Music by Ludwig Englander, Will Marion Cook, Harry T. MacConnell and Arthur Nevin; Book by Robert Smith; Lyrics by Ludwig Englander, Will Marion Cook, Harry T. MacConnell and Arthur Nevin; Featuring songs with lyrics by L. Lamprey The Casino Girl – Internet Broadway Database Retrieved 11 February 2014
  38. Knickerbocker. New York Times"', 14 April 1901, p. 19
  39. Music by Ludwig Englander; Book by Harry B. Smith; Adapted from the German of Leopold Kremm and Karl Lindau; Lyrics by Harry B. Smith; Musical Director: Antonio DeNovellis; Additional lyrics by Raymond Browne, Fred Meyer, William Jerome, Will D. Cobb, Robert B. Smith and Jeff T. Branen; Additional music by Fred Meyer, Leo Friedman, Jean Schwartz, Gus Edwards, Harry T. MacConnell and Evans Lloyd The Strollers – Internet Broadway Database Retrieved 11 February 2014
  40. Katie Seymour's Adventure. Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, 12 May 1901, p. 8
  41. Scores American Dancers, Des Moines Daily News, 3 October 1901, p. 5
  42. Alhambra Theatre. London Daily Mail, 21 October 1901, p. 1
  43. Alhambra. London Mainly About People, 14 December 1901, p. 48
  44. Holloway Empire. London North Mercury And Crouch End Observer, 1 February 1902, p. 8
  45. Husband Across Sea Boston Daily Globe, 20 November 1889, P. 11
  46. Katie Seymour's Funeral. London Evening News and Evening Mail, 11 September 1903, p. 2
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