News: Dancing Queen of the Moulin Rouge Dies

Monday 12 December 2005

Gloria Sheaves joined the Bluebell Dance Troupe in 1934 and performed thousands of shows dressed in basques, short skirts, stockings and high-heels.The girls’ risque routines gave them celebrity status and yesterday Mrs Sheaves’s family were mourning “the end of a glamorous era”.

Her daughter, Lucina, 59, said: “Mum lived for dancing. I used to tease her about being one of the first-ever strippers but she said the girls were very respectable and would only pose with feathers strategically placed. “Even when she moved into the old people’s home a few years ago, she limbered up every morning with high kicks. I think the other residents thought she was crazy. “Her death means there are no more Bluebell girls left. The era is confined to history.”

Mrs Sheaves said on her 90th birthday: “Dancing is my life. I don’t think I can ever stop. I am lost without it.” Born Leonie Allard in 1912 in Shaftesbury, Dorset, Mrs Sheaves was the fifth child of a family of cattle farmers. Her talents were noticed when she was only seven, and she was singled out for extra tuition at her dancing school.

At the age of 21 she joined a London dance and stage school where she learnt acrobatics and ballroom dancing. She later took the stage name Gloria and left for Paris to join the Bluebell Dance Troupe, created just two years earlier by Margaret Kelly, who was nicknamed Bluebell because of her piercing blue eyes.

As well as dancing in the chorus line of cancan girls, Mrs Sheaves was selected by Madame Bluebell to perform Spanish dance routines, jazz cabaret and oriental dances involving back bends and acrobatics. “I did cancan until I was blue in the face, day in, day out,” she said. “That was what they were looking for when I went to the Moulin Rouge. “I loved Paris and felt at home there immediately. It just felt so natural and it was a wonderful experience.”

On leaving the Moulin Rouge in 1936, she danced in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania before returning to London’s West End during the Second World War. She married Richard Sheaves in 1942 and they were together for more than 60 years. They had two grandchildren, Joanna and Julian, and a great-great granddaughter, Emily. Mr Sheaves, 87, said: “It is so sad that she has gone. She was a wonderful lady and it was a wonderful time.”

In 1953, his wife set up the Gloria Sheaves School of Dance in Southmead, Bristol, where she worked into her late eighties, teaching hundreds of people ballroom and Latin dancing.

She received an MBE in 2001 in recognition of her work.

Read more in Telegraph, 12 Dec.05

Michael Horsnell pays tribute to Gloria Sheaves,

THE curtain has finally come down on the original, high-kicking Bluebell Girls who danced the cancan at the Moulin Rouge in Paris

As well as dancing in the chorus line, she was selected by Madame Bluebell — Margaret Kelly, who founded the troupe in 1932 and was so named because of the piercing colour of her eyes — for a Spanish dance routine, jazz cabaret and a mouth-watering oriental speciality dance. “

Madame’s girls, who had to meet rigorous requirements for poise, beauty and height (5ft 11in), danced their Nuit de Folies at the Folies Bergère to wildly enthusiastic audiences. “

Read the whole article in The Times, 10 Dec.05

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