Les Sousloffs

I found myself researching down a rabbit hole with this vaudeville card, literally. The Les Sousloffs were a brother and sister dancing group who were originally from Russia, but were famous for their french dancing. Both had toured Europe together before coming to America in 1910.

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The Sousloffs. 11.6.1909

The woman on the left is Mlle Sousloff, but when they toured in America, she changed her name to “Nana”  because she found that everyone was mispronouncing her real name. The Man on the right is her brother Alexis Sousloff. The Sousloffs (especially Nana) were known for their tempestuous Parisian dancing. Acrobatic dancing with touches of ballroom and ballet.

“The discreetly daring young woman of this team, one of the greatest acrobatic dancers we have ever seen, gives a series of amazingly energetic dances discounting and putting out of commission for all the pallid imitation of the French dancers of her kind.”  Chicago Daily Journal October 11, 1910.

They would often perform with Eddie Foy and Harry Lauder. while at their prime in the Vaudeville circuit.

Lillian Leitzel
Mlle. Leitzel

Sometime in 1912, Alexis Sousloff made headlines when he and another famous acrobat, Mlle. (lilly) Leitzel from the Ringling Bros. tied the knot unexpectedly. The marriage only lasted a few days, as the couple split supposedly because Alexis wanted to retire, so that Lilly could be the bread winner. Lilly was having none of that so it seems.

Chicago, May 5 – Mlle. Leitzel, the feature act of the Ringling Shows, has been granted an absolute divorce from her husband. Alexis Sousloff. They were married in August, 1912, but lived together only a very short while. It is understood that the divorce was obtained because of desertion and nonsupport. No alimony was mentioned in the proceedings. (Billboard, May 15, 1915, p. 23)

when I looked into Lilly Leitzel to further my research, I found a quite sad story. Leitzel was a highly educated acrobat who was raised in the circus as her mother was also an acrobat in the circus. She was 4 ft 9 inches tall and knew over 7 languages and was a star at the top of her prime when she and Alexis married. After the divorce, she later married a Alfredo Codona, who was also an acrobat.  On February 13, 1931, she fell to the ground to her death from her rigging while performing in Copenhagen, Denmark at the Valencia Theatre, when the swivel that held the rope in place fractured and snapped. – Wikipedia

After her death, her husband Alfredo Codona married again, but it was short lived.

Codona’s distress about his second wife’s death and inability to perform led to the deterioration of his third marriage. He committed suicide by gunshot in Long Beach, California, after shooting Vera Bruce (his 3rd wife) during a division of their property in front of her horrified mother (newspaper accounts of the day incorrectly stated that Vera was his second wife).[3] She died the next day.[4] Codona was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery at Leitzel’s grave at his request.[5] Wikipedia

How’s that for a (depressing) rabbit hole.  Geese!




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