Ida Rubinstein (1885-1960)

It is not unusual in ballet history for someone to buy their way into the dance profession. In this century Rebecca Harkness, Lucia Chase and Ida Rubinstein did this, and it is really not as bad as it may sound. Because of Lucia Chase and Rebecca Harkness we have American Ballet Theatre, and had the original Joffrey Ballet and Harkness Ballets. These companies employed many dancers, choreographers, and set and costumers designers. Many fine dancers have come to the fore through these liaisons.

Ida Rubinstein was born in St. Petersburg, and became a private student of Mikhail Fokine. Fokine choreographed Salomé for her, and at the end of the Dance of the Seven Veils she was totally nude. This dance was only performed once, because the censors closed it. It must be said that Ida was very beautiful in face and figure.Through Fokine's efforts she was employed by Sergei Diaghilev for his first season in Paris, although there were many misgivings about hiring an amateur.

Ida was a great success in Fokine's Cléopâtre and as Zobeide is his Scheherazade. She remained with the Ballets Russes until 1911. Because of her fortune, she had the means to create her own companies; there were several over the years. She used many of the dancers and choreographers from the Ballets Russes. After World War I Rubinstein performed in many plays and dances for the Paris Opera. When she retired she left all of her commissioned ballets to this institution.

Rubinstein was responsible for making stars of many young dancers and choreographers such as Roman Jasinsky, David Lichine, Yurek Shabelevsky, Nina Verchinina, Frederick Ashton, Natalie Krassovska and George Zoritch. Rubenstein like Bolm, helped build the foundation for ballet in America.

(First published May 1995)

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