Fannie Burke Character Dancer [printed title].
Fannie Burke, Victorian Dancer
She is the picture of late Victorian America. She wears a fancy dress with rosettes, puffy sleeves and broad shoulders. Leaning against a carved chair, she stands hands-on-hips and strikes a dramatic pose.
Fannie Burke was an entertainer. She was a character dancer, someone who danced on stage. The term “character dancer” was typically linked to ballet. By the late 19th century, it had become more associated with folk dances such as the habañera or polka.
To promote herself as a dancer to theatrical producers or managers, Burke had herself photographed by Kern Bros. of New York City. She chose the handy, medium-size cabinet card format.
Fannie transformed her cabinet card from an ordinary photograph into a business card. She did this by adding a caption printed in letterpress: “Fannie Burke Character Dancer.”
Ms. Burke’s “publicity” photograph also likely served as a souvenir of her performances. It thus became a collectible, something for her fans and admirers.
Little seems to be known about Fannie Burke. A notice in the show business newspaper Variety from 1918 — some years after this photograph — notes that one Fannie Burke was an actress. She was a cast member in the play A Very Good Young Man at New York’s Plymouth Theater. Perhaps it is the same person, now a little older, turned to acting.
In any event, Fannie Burke’s portrait remains.
Her confident portrait recalls a working dancer from a by-gone era when the stage was the entertainment for a mass audience.
Description: Fannie Burke Character Dancer [printed title].
New York: Kern Bros. Instantaneous Portraits [c.1900–1910]. Cabinet Card Photograph. 6½ x 4¼ inches. Silver process photograph on embossed, cream-colored mount. Photographer’s imprint at bottom with added letterpress caption. Brief rubbing at imprint, not affecting image; very good.