Gertrude Hoffmann made her name in the early twentieth century as an imitator, copying highbrow performances staged in Europe and popularizing them for a broader American audience. Born in San Francisco, Hoffmann started working as a ballet girl in pantomime spectacles during the Gay Nineties. She performed through the heyday of vaudeville and later taught dancers and choreographed nightclub revues. After her career ended, she reflected on how vaudeville’s history was represented in film and television.
Drawn from extensive archival research, Imitation Artist shows how Hoffmann’s life intersected with those of central gures in twentieth-century popular culture and dance, including Florenz Ziegfeld, George M. Cohan, Isadora Duncan, and Ruth St. Denis. Sunny Stalter-Pace discusses the ways in which Hoffmann navigated the complexities of performing gender, race, and national identity at the dawn of contemporary celebrity culture. This book is essential reading for those interested in the history of theater and dance, modernism, women’s history, and copyright.