The Rogge Sisters
By Don Stacey
Dora, Gerda and Vera Rogge were born in Germany to a well-known circus family; their grandmother was Leopoldine Lange (1873-1956), and their cousins were the famous Mascotts sisters. The sisters began performing in the ring at age six. In time, they developed a rolling globe act in which they ascended narrow inclined ramps to reach a set of elevated platforms. It eventually became one of Europe’s most celebrated numbers of the genre: The Rogge Sisters had revived a specialty that had not been seen for a long time in the circus—and their act was subsequently widely copied by other artistes.
After working in Germany for some years, the Rogge Sisters went to London to appear for the first time in England in Tom Arnold’s prestigious circus at the Harringay Arena for the winter season of 1950-51—thus launching their international career. They were featured afterwards in leading European shows, including Circus Knie in Switzerland, and Circus Krone and Circus Franz Althoff in Germany, in England at Blackpool's Tower Circus in 1952, and at the Kelvin Hall Circus in Glasgow, Scotlamd, for the 1952-53 winter season.
They returned to London for the Bertram Mills Circus’s 1953-54 winter season at Olympia. Afterwards, Dora, Vera and Gerda were booked for three consecutive tenting tours with Bertram Mills Circus from 1955 to 1957. At the end of the 1957 tour, Dora left her sisters and remained with the Bertram Mills Circus to marry one of its two long-serving ringmasters, Frank Foster Jnr., and created her celebrated sword balancing act, which she performed as Rogana.
Vera and Gerda regrouped the Rogge Sisters act with Frank’s sister, Juliette. For a brief period in 1963-64, they were featured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus during its short-lived European tour. The act was still doing very well, but it eventually disbanded after Vera’s tragic death in the fire of her living trailer; Gerda Rogge went on to create a successful "strong lady" act of her own under the name of Miss Atlas. (She died in Hamburg in 1996, at the age of sixty.)