Harcourt Algernon Leighton Essex was born in London on 18 April 1903, the son of Thomas Richard Essex (1865-1916) and Alice Kendall (1863-1939). He attended dance classes during his youth and in 1921 joined Anna Pavlova's dance company. Essex adopted the Russianised name Algeranoff at this time.
Algeranoff toured North America (1921-1925), Asia (1922, 1928-1929), Europe (1925) and South Africa (1926) with Pavlova's company. He partnered Pavlova at Covent Garden in Russian Dance and Oriental Impressions, and in Don Quixote at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York. Algeranoff toured Australia with Pavlova in 1926 and 1929, touring mainland state capitals, Mackay, Rockhampton and Bundaberg. Algeranoff described his experiences in his memoirs My years with Pavlova (Melbourne: Heinemann, 1957). In the 1920s Algeranoff studied Japanese dancing with Matsumoto Koshiro VII in Tokyo at the Fujima School, later adding to his repertoire of Japanese dances with Yasoya Kineya in Los Angeles. He also studied Indian dancing with Uday Shankar, having partnered the Indian dancer Menaka in Bombay.
After Pavlova's death, Algeranoff danced with the Dandré-Levitoff Company (which visited Australia in 1934), the Markova-Dolin Ballet (1936) and the Ballets Russes (1933-1934 and 1937-1942). From 1938-1940 he toured Australia with the Ballets Russes, his roles including the Astrologer (Le Coq d'Or) and Pierrot (Carnaval). In 1943 he joined the International Ballet and was commissioned to write and choreograph the ballet For love or money for the 1951 Festival of Britain.
In April 1945 he married the French dancer Claudie Leonard in Glamorgan, Wales, and in 1953 accompanied her to Australia, where she appeared as prima ballerina with the Borovansky Ballet. Algeranoff used his early years in Australia to study Aboriginal music and legends and taught at the National Theatre Ballet School in Melbourne. In 1955-1956 Algeranoff and Claudie, with New Zealand dancer Ronald Reay, toured Central and Eastern Australia for the Australian Children's Theatre. They performed Stories in dance, based on excerpts from the classical repertoire and traditional Japanese dances.
In 1957 the Algeranoffs and Reay toured Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Dutch New Guinea for three months as the Algeranoff Ballet Group (under the aegis of the Bond van Kunstkringen). Algeranoff and Claudie separated in 1957 and divorced in 1959.
Algeranoff later worked as choreographer with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, as ballet master with the Norwegian Opera Ballet (1957-1959) and in Australia again in 1959 as ballet master with the Borovansky Ballet. Algeranoff also participated in performances of the newly formed Australian Ballet (1962-1963). In 1962 he moved to Mildura as ballet master of the North West Victoria Ballet Society.
Algeranoff was killed in a motor accident on 7 April 1967.
Profile of Algeranoff from Australia Dancing, a dance portal hosted by the National Library of Australia (http://www.australiadancing.org/subjects/441.html).
Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 13, p. 24-25.
My years with Pavlova (1957).