Mobi Urbanova, Deaf Czechoslovak Dancer (1914-88)
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 31 January 2020
Mobi Urbanova was born Emilie Urbanova, in Prague, on the 24th of July, 1914. It seems that she was Deaf from birth. As it was a period of prewar mobilisation, her family called her ‘Mobi’ and the name stuck.
Her family was middle class, and her mother was a good pianist, and Mobi first showed an interest in dancing when only three.
The picture, in our postcard collection (so undoubtedly used by Selwyn Oxley for a lantern slide show), is probably taken from The Silent Worker. I skipped through it quickly but could not spot the original. Under the heading, Deaf Dancing Star of Prague, it continues,
INTERESTING PHENOMENON—A DEAF DANCER
There are very few deaf dancers. Only three have acquired world fame: the American dancer, Miss Helen Heckman, the leading dancer at the Opera Vienna, Mlle. Adeline, and M. David Marvel of America. There now appears a fourth dancing star of the deaf world: a child dancer, NH. Mobi Urbana.
She is now eleven years old. She was born in Prague of a middle-class family, and, though deaf by birth, she showed from early childhood a remarkable talent for rythmics and dancing. She danced everywhere and at any time; she played by dancing and created her own dance evolutions. Later she took a course in rythm [sic] and learned to dance the gavotte, the butterfly dance, and the polka, in its elaborate form, etc. She first appeared on the stage at eleven years of age, and has since won many records for exhibition dancing in Prague, and other towns and resorts in Czech-Slovakia. Her parents give her every opportunity to study dancing and music. She receives instruction in playing the piano, and is now one of the pupils of Mlle. Stephanie Klimesova, ballet mistress of the National Theatre in Prague. Her dancing is natural and free from all affectation. V. B. H.
Remarkably, she was able to publish a memoir, Splněný sen/Erfüllter Traum in 1943, at a time when the Germans were brutalising Deaf people. Perhaps because she was reasonably well known, she had some propaganda value.
Mobi’s mother remarried, Jiří Bubla, who in 1947 became chairman of the Czechoslovak Central Association for the Deaf. She taught dance to Deaf children from around 1942, and after the war. She would also play the piano as a part of her performance.
She died in Prague on the 22nd of January, 1988.
Please Note: I have broadly followed the Czech Wikipedia page, as I have found very little in English.