Dance History Quiz | Stage Names vs Birth Names

Fun facts for teachers & students

Match the stage names of these famous dancers (lowercase letters) to their real names (capital letters):

a. Melissa Hayden
b. Suzanne Farrell
c. Ninette de Valois
d. Allegra Kent

A. Edris Stannus
B. Mildred Herman
C. Iris Margo Cohen
D. Roberta Sue Ficker

a.-Bb-D; c-A; d-C

The issue of ballet dancers’ stage names came up when Peter Stamelman interviewed New Yorker dance critic Joan Acocella for a 2017 column in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Acocella said that dancers often changed their names because of “exoticism and a belief that ballet was by definition Russian or French.” Lilian Alicia Marks, for example, Russianized her name to become Alicia Markova. Jewish dancers, such as Kent, Hayden, and Nora Kaye (birth name: Nora Koreff) changed their names to assimilate into American culture, or for ease of pronunciation. (In this way, Balanchivadze became Balanchine, and Rabinowitz became Robbins.) It wasn’t just female dancers looking to add to their cachet by adopting marquee-ready names. According to Stamelman, Joseph Jacques Ahearn became Jacques d’Amboise, William Cook became Antony Tudor, and Sydney Francis Patrick Chippendall Healy-Kay dumped that mouthful of a name in favor of the short and sweet Anton Dolin.