The Ziegfeld Follies is an integral part of early twentieth century Broadway history. Illustrious producer Florenz Ziegfeld produced nearly 24 editions of the Ziegfeld Follies, many of which were performed at the New Amsterdam Theater. Inspired by the French Folies-Bergere, his musical revues featured large casts of women singing and dancing in a manner considered sensual but not as overtly sexual as vaudeville’s lowbrow burlesque dancers. The key to Ziegfeld’s Follies productions was grandiosity; from music to set design to costuming, every aspect of these shows was gilded to the highest degree. Audiences had never seen such opulence, and they were transfixed. Most significantly, Ziegfeld’s girls were carefully selected to reflect Ziegfeld’s image of the ideal American girl. As Ziegfeld himself described, “The eyes should be large and expressive. A regular profile is a decided asset…The legs must be shapely, and last but not least, the proportions of the figure must be perfect.” While he did admit that the beauty of his chorus girls was enhanced by make-up, lighting, and costumes, his illustration became the standard of beauty valued by Americans.
Watch this video of Doris Eaton Travis, the last Ziegfeld girl, dancing at age 101: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IN3gOQcgEI