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Spotlight: Jenny Hasselqvist

This week's Spotlight Saturday features little-known ballerina and actress Jenny Hasselqvist.

Born Matilda Elizabeth Jenny Hasselqvist (sometimes Hasselquist) in Stockholm, July 31 1894 to a Swedish MP and his wife, she studied at the Swedish Opera's ballet school from 1906. She debuted as a ballerina in her teens, performing with the Royal Swedish Ballet from 1910. Mikhail Fokine chose her for solo roles in La Sylphide and Cleopatra in 1913. She was quickly promoted to prima ballerina of the Swedish Royal Opera, where she danced until 1919, as well as touring Europe with the company. In 1920 she joined the Swedish Ballet (Ballets suedois) in Paris for a number of avant-garde performances.

She was recognised as one of the best performers of the time, and one reviewer, in 1925, ranked her as on par with Anna Pavlova and Tamara Karsavina. Unfortunately, little footage of her dancing survives. There is Mauritz Stiller's 1916 film 'Ballettprimadonna', considered lost until it was recently found, almost complete, in the Swedish Film Institute. She also dances in a section of the 1925 German film 'Path to Power & Beauty'. One of the best extant examples is in Sumurun, a 1920 Ernst Lubich film, in which she plays the title role.

One of her greater challenges is the film 'The Saga of Gosta Berling', starring alongside 19-year-old Greta Gustafsson (later Greta Garbo). One of the key films of the silent era, 'The Saga of Gosta Berling' was adapted from the Nobel Prize winning author Selma Lagerlof's novel and directed by Mauritz Stiller. The film is fairly melodramatic but still an entertaining watch, and Jenny stands up well against her more famous colleagues.

She was restricted to making around a film a year during the 1920s, as she was also still on tour with the Swedish Ballet. She made her last film, A Dangerous Game, in 1930, and in 1932 opened her own ballet school. She also taught at the Swedish Opera Ballet School. Jenny Hasselqvist died on June 8 1978.

In 'Sumurun'

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Adeline Genee.

- Selene

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