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Ida Rubinstein: Dancing Decadence and “The Art of the Beautiful Pose”

Patricia Vertinsky
Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
No. 26 (Spring 2014), pp. 122-146
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/nashim.26.122
Stable URL:
Page Count: 25
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Ida Rubinstein: Dancing Decadence and “The Art of the Beautiful Pose”
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Ida Rubinstein (1885–1960) was a mystery; variously viewed as a Hebrew princess, a queen of mime and a female dandy in the guise of a dancer, she performed both on and off the stage of high society in the early 1900s, making her mark on the international public and contributing to changing attitudes about women, art and dance movement aesthetics. Virtually untrained as a dancer, but mistress of the seductive gesture learned from the West (but honed in the East), Rubinstein knew just how to capture the Western eye, and she spent a fortune playing to it. The luxury of extreme wealth certainly helped open the doors to her artistic fame, and she was fortunate to be included in the sensational triumphs of the Ballets Russes as it was received by a sophisticated and enthusiastic Parisian audience. In this paper, I examine the sources from which Rubinstein received the inspiration and training that led to her artistic successes and discuss the context of her approaches to movement, gesture and spectacle. Overall, I reflect upon the various ways in which her Jewishness and privileged upbringing in the twilight of Imperial Russia affected (or did not affect) her decadent lifestyle and enhanced and/or limited aspects of her remarkable career as a dance performer, producer and influential patron of the arts. To what extent was she seen to “perform” the Jewess with its stereotyped roles of temptress and exotic other, reflecting the fin de siècle figure of la belle Juive with its powerful collapsing of distance between staged representation and real life?

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