After Pavlova, the 18th-century building, much altered and given a new façade in the Arts and Crafts style, was owned by a hospital, which destroyed its interior, and later became a private museum to Pavlova. Now it has been renovated as the home, perhaps appropriately, of the London Jewish Cultural Centre (Pavlova's unknown father is thought to have been Jewish), which has mounted a tribute to the dancer's life and work.
Memorials to a performer are no more than pinned butterflies. We can view a cast of Pavlova's left foot, en pointe; her Bakelite make-up box; her shoes, trimmed with gilt and colourful paste jewellery. We can gaze at a pastel portrait, head characteristically thrown back and smiling demurely, or a sketch, by Laura Knight, of her in motion. And we can examine photographs of Pavlova: looking startlingly up-to-date in wide trousers or adorably absurd in a hat like an arum lily; striking an archaic pose in a Greek tunic; sitting with one of her pet swans, its neck entwined with hers. Yet these fragile souvenirs of a dazzling life frustrate as much as they delight.
Fortunately, the exhibition also includes rare films of Pavlova dancing, from 1916 onwards. Each one is brief, and her movements are restricted by a fixed camera. Yet these ancient images are entrancing in their depiction of Pavlova's genius and variety. In California Poppy, she seems at first to originate the wild winds that propel her about, then to be subdued by them, folding the petals of her skirt up to cover her face and sinking to the floor. On a visit to Hollywood, she was filmed dancing on the set of The Thief of Bagdad in almost chorus-girl mode, all blonde ringlets and ruffles. In other clips, barely clad in veils and throwing complicitous looks over her shoulder, she is startlingly sexy and alive, a tiny, benign ghost in her old house.
To 23 March (020-8457 5000; www.ljcc.org.uk)Reuse content