Exhibiting Historical Art: Out of the Vault: Stories of People and Things

Ida Rubenstein

    Ida Rubenstein was born in 1883 in Kharkov, Ukraine, as the youngest of four children to a wealthy family. When Rubenstein was nine, both of her parents had passed away and she moved to St. Petersburg to live with her cousins. In 1904 Rubenstein made her professional theatrical debut in the title role of Antigone. Later that year she moved to study at the Moscow Theatre School. She later transferred to St. Petersburg, where she studied with Michel Fokine, a choreographer for her production of Salomé in 1908. The scandalous aspects of the show caused it to be banned, but it did increase the fame of Rubenstein, and helped her get many of her future roles.

    Rubenstein was not a technically trained dancer, so many of her performances were considered “mime”, including her role as Cleopatra in 1909. In the performance that Jo Davidson represents here, Rubenstein was able to bring life to the story of the Egyptian queen. Cleopatra brought fame to Rubenstein, and she continued to dance in productions until 1928 when she created her own ballet troupe, Les Ballets de Madame Ida Rubinstein. Rubenstein commissioned many scores to be written for her, and stared in every production. She continued to dance until she was forced to relocate to England when the Germans invaded France. After the liberation of Paris, Rubenstein returned and attempted to restart her career, but with little success. Rubenstein died in 1960.

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