Poster in orange and beige tones advertising a magic show by 'Murray'.
Murray the Most Amazing, Sensational and Mysterious Man of This or Any Other Age ... London: Perfecta Press, between 1920 and 1929, nla.obj-2632287217

Theatres and halls built in the 1880s and 1890s continue to thrive after Federation in 1901. Variety shows, melodramas and musicals were very popular, as were opera, drama and ballet. J.C. Williamson's company came to dominate entertainment in Australia and New Zealand, absorbing rivals and owning theatres. It brought out great stars of the stage: opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, ballerina Anna Pavlova and the Ballets Russes.

Poster for Anna Pavlova dancing with the Ballet Russe featuring black text on a lime green background
Anna Pavlova and her 'Ballet Russe', Her Majesty's Theatre, from 17 April 1926, nla.obj-54466908

J.C Williamson brought Anna Pavlova — billed as 'the greatest dancer of all time' — and her company to Australia on two tours, in 1926 and 1929. She had danced with the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Sergei Diaghilev's original Ballets Russes.

A contract between J.C Williamson Ltd and Madame Pavlova dated 1 November 1928, signed by her manager and husband Victor Dandré, stipulated that she would appear twice during each performance, for a total of 30 minutes.

But Australians also told their own stories, through performers such as Bert Bailey, Edmund Duggan, Roy Rene and Nat Phillips. And they welcomed back homegrown stars, such as Melba and actor-producer Oscar Asche, who had triumphed overseas.