Ida Rubinstein as Saint Sébastien

PERFORMATIVE QUEERNESS IN MODERNITY

By Nicole Haitzinger and Julia Ostwald

Ida Rubinstein (1885–1960), dancer, actress, patroness and fashion icon – celebrated during the Paris fin de siècle but, today, nearly forgotten – embodies and stages what might be understood as modern queerness in paradigmatic fashion. As we would like to suggest, Rubinstein’s performative play with multiple identities, that is, with pushing (national, religious, sexual, artistic) boundaries seems to have contributed to her success, yet ultimately to have led to her exclusion from the canon in art, theatre and dance studies. In the sense of the triad Russian – bisexual – Jewish, such multiple queerness was perceived as extremely provocative (on the part of the Church and conservatives) and revolutionary (on the part of the Parisian avant-garde).

 

Rubinstein’s performative queerness can be contextualised and re-evaluated through the notion of eccentricity, which allows us to grasp the deeply ambivalent polarities that characterise her work as well as its critical potential.

Historically, the notion of eccentricity as a behaviour “beyond the norm” arises at the end of the 18th century, together with the birth of the bourgeois state and the emergence of the individualistic society. [1] The concept of eccentricity is especially connected to women of the 19th century like Sarah Bernhardt, who deliberately used the label of being eccentric to legitimise herself as an artistic female living outside the gendered social norms, and, who publicly declared Ida Rubinstein to be her heiress. In this sense, eccentricity can be understood not as a character trait but rather as a strategy, a way of performing subjectivity consciously.

 

In the realm of urgent questions concerning identity and culture, a reconsideration of eccentricity as a critical concept, despite its historical connection to modernity, seems to be worthwhile, as numerous current publications on this topic indicate. [2] It is the specific spatial positionality of eccentricity that links it to queer strategies that withstand normalised (gendered) identities. In its literal, astronomical meaning of being outside the centre, but not separated from it, eccentricity points to a position that always maintains a flexible and critical relationship with the centre and its norms. In this regard, Ingrid Hotz-Davies and Stefanie Gropper describe eccentricity as “a movement, a technique […] designed to investigate and question the centre while striving away from it, […] a positionality which is being brought forth in a continual and specific process of ‘ex-centering’ performances and utterances“. [3] Following this, eccentricity is to be understood as a strategy that reaffirms and subverts the norms at the same time.

 

This specific spatial relationality of eccentricity can also be related to Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s notion of the preposition beside, which she introduces in order to overcome dualistically structured thinking: “Beside comprises a wide range of desiring, identifying, representing, repelling, paralleling, differentiating, rivalling, leaning, twisting, mimicking, withdrawing, attracting, aggressing, warping, and other relations.” [4] Instead of the common relation between the hegemonic and the (spatially underlying) subversive, the concept of eccentricity suggests another form of criticism: One that dissolves the order between centre and periphery by favouring movements between an unlimited amount of ‘besidenesses’. In a similar way, Rainer Emig stresses the critical potential of eccentricity “as a counterweight to binary structuralist models of culture and as an ally of postcolonial studies and Queer Theory.” [5]

 

This eccentric movement and dislocation of centre and periphery can be considered as foundational for Rubinstein’s multifaceted queerness that refuses clear-cut classification. Aesthetically, this queerness resonates in the unique interplay of body and voice in Rubinstein’s performances that we want to show by means of generic productions hereafter.

 

Ida Rubinstein’s early works

 

Born into a wealthy, dynastically widely branched Ashkenazic-Jewish banker’s family in Kharkiv in Tsarist Russia (now in the Ukraine), she grew up in Saint Petersburg and was orphaned at an early age. Taken in by Madam Horwitz, a distant relative, she received an education appropriately reflecting the family’s social standing, learned several foreign languages, studied philosophy and literature, and was trained in singing, acting and dance, a standard for young ladies belonging to Saint Petersburg’s salon culture. Early on, Ida Rubinstein formulated the desire to become an actress: strikingly, her first (self-financed) production for invited guests was Antigone (1904). She played the role of Antigone wearing opulent classicising robes designed by Lev Rosenberg, a visual artist who – under the name of Léon Bakst – would later become known as one of the main scenographers of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. A preference for the performative embodiment of tragic heroines and both female and male iconic figures (from myths and legends of saints) is to mark Rubinstein’s work throughout her lifetime. [6] Having studied at Muscovite and Saint Petersburg theatre academies (which involves training in acting, the theory of drama, rhetoric, declamation, mime, fencing) and fascinated by Isadora Duncan’s performances, she declared: “All of me must be flexible: my voice, my face and plastique”. [7] We can see here the emergence of the premises that were to characterise Ida Rubinstein’s work: a complex interweaving of voice, facial expressivity and the plastic modelling of poses and gestures.

 

Salome (1909): Theatrical Sculpture In Motu, Contoured by Inner Voice

 

Rubinstein became notorious in Russia through her performative embodiment of Oscar Wilde’s Salome in 1909 (provoking not only the Russian Orthodox Church). Dancing with veils, this was the first time she made use of an eros of veiling and unveiling, her signature practice over the subsequent two years. She found support among St. Petersburg’s artistic elite, namely through Léon Bakst (costumes, scenography), Alexander Glazunov (composition), Michel Fokine (choreography) and Vsevolod Meyerhold (director) – something she afforded through her insistent character, her radiance and her financial means. Michel Fokine, having gone through the severe training methods of classical Russian ballet and at this point involved in reforming the codex, worked with ballet novice Ida Rubinstein to improve her scenic presence and to model a period-typical sculptural-iconic expressive body. [8]

 

Ida Rubinstein as “Salome” (1909)

 

Ida Rubinstein as Salome marked the “apotheosis of the […] femme fatale” as part of fin de siècle aesthetics. [9] It appears to constitute a climactic point of sorts, yet also a vanishing point leading towards a different, more androgynous construction of femininity. In the context of the production, Ida Rubinstein transcended both socio-cultural and (dance-) theatrical conventions: firstly, she entered into a (fake) marriage involving no sexual obligations with her supportive cousin Vladimir Horwitz; it was only this liaison that enabled her to perform publicly in Saint Petersburg and as an actress without triggering a social or family-based scandal. Secondly, Salome was performed without linguistic articulation – making use only of mimic language – as the Russian Orthodox Church had prohibited the stage performance of Oscar Wilde’s text. Retrospectively, Léon Bakst mockingly commented that “Salome became a ballet by the grace of the Holy Synod”. [10] Nevertheless, and this is important to note with respect to the varying constellation of voice and physicality in Ida Rubinstein’s oeuvre, the voice remained present in the imaginary, even when it could not be heard. The text was distributed among the audience before the performance, so that – as we would like to suggest – Salome’s voice was perceived as present precisely through Ida Rubinstein’s mute articulation. Thirdly, Ida Rubinstein caused a stir by stripping near-nude in the course of the Dance of the Seven Veils; it was highly sensual, yet not obscene: “She has the suppleness of a serpent in the physical form of a woman.” [11]

 

Cléopâtre (1909) and Shéhérazade (1910): Serial Dance Poses In Situ, Mute
 
Ida Rubinstein’s career profited from the sketched scenario of a spectacular unveiling. Initially sceptical due to her lack of technique, the impresario Sergei Diaghilev assigned two main roles to her within a short period of time; he was impressed by the idiosyncrasy of her présence scénique, and followed Bakst’s and Fokine’s recommendations. The roles she was invited to take were that of the Egyptian queen and pharaoh Cleopatra, and that of the slave Zobeida in Shéhérazade. Both roles rest on certain configurations of eros. In terms of the former, this was the case as part of a series of performative poses in Bakst’s opulent and polychromatic scenario, as typical for the Ballets Russes’ productions of the time. Rubinstein rid herself of the mummy-like drapery and embodied a Cleopatra in modernity: “Slowly, in accordance with the complicated court ritual, one by one, the covers were unwound, disclosing the divine body omnipotent in its beauty.” [12]

 

Rubinstein in “Shéhérazade”

 

The harem scenario as part of Shéhérazade featured an orgiastic scene together with the golden slave Nijinsky, ending in a spectacularly produced stage death. Again, it was the artistic presentation of a series of singular and contoured “poses without movement” that formed the choreographic base and that generated and intensified Ida Rubinstein’s exceptional présence scénique[13] Around the same time, she commissioned Valentin Serov to paint her lying naked on a divan. The painting proclaims a further facet in the play between persona and artistic (self-) production: that of an androgynous and sublime beauty moving beyond a clear-cut sexual classification.

 

Rubinstein painted by Romaine Brooks Le Trajet (1911)

 

This aspect also becomes visible in the photographs and pictures of her lover Romaine Brooks: “Hers was a mask whose outward glow emanated from a disturbed inner depth.” [14] We might relate this to Judith Butler’s notion of the body as a “materializing of possibilities” [15]: Through performative acts of repetition, Ida Rubinstein begins to “[produce] it differently from [...] [her] contemporaries [whilst recurring to them] and from one’s embodied predecessors and successors as well”. [16] In her early artistic works we see the unfolding of a variable relation between eros and aesthetics that is distanced from normative orders of gender and destabilises these – at least temporarily – by means of performative queerness.

 

In the early 1910s, a now openly bisexual Ida Rubinstein began to live through a series of platonic, erotic and sexual constellations that queer heteronormative orders: this included a ménage à trois (with the American inheritress and painter Romaine Brooks and the Italian writer and womaniser Gabriele d’Annunzio), being the long-term lover of a married man (Walter Guinness), and platonic friendships with hetero- and homosexual men (e.g., Robert de Montesquiou). Her eccentricity was far-reaching: most of the time she lived in hotels, where she welcomed her illustrious guests in the manner of traditional salon culture, and she promenaded through the Paris boulevards with her black panther. Following her language-less performances as part of the Ballets Russes, Ida Rubinstein credited the Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio and, in a wider sense, the production Le Martyre de Saint Sébastian (1911), with giving her a distinct artistic voice. [17] Le Martyre constitutes – as we would like to suggest – a signature piece testifying to Rubinstein’s performative queerness. In life and on stage it radically demystified clear-cut constructions of gender, religion, nation and – theatrically speaking – genre: the stage body becomes the mise-en-scène of possibilities.

 

Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien (1911): The Interplay of Voice and Posture as Ek-stasis

 

Le Martyre may be considered a decisive moment within Rubinstein’s career in that 1) it constitutes the first of a whole series of large-scale, interdisciplinary Parisian theatre productions as part of which Rubinstein acted as a patron to bring together some of the most well-known artists of the time; [18] 2) the dancer now explicitly added the voice to her theatrical means of expression; and in that 3) by playing Saint Sebastian, Rubinstein expanded her repertoire, thus far limited to the representation of femmes fatales, to include a different – more androgynous and more ambivalent – mise-en-scène of gender identity no less erotically charged. As we would like to argue in what follows, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien inextricably links the elements of voice, body and eroticism to the over-arching aspect of otherness; this is the case both in terms of d’Annunzio’s construction of the figure of the Saint and in terms of Ida Rubinstein’s embodiment of the same.

 

Rubinstein as “Saint Sebastian”

In 1910, when author Gabriele d’Annunzio saw Rubinstein for the first time as part of a performance of Shéhérazade, he cried out: “Here […] are the legs of Saint Sebastian for which I have been searching for years!'” [19] At this point, d’Annunzio had been dreaming of a dramatic mise-en-scène of Saint Sebastian for more than twenty years, and it was only with the appearance of Ida Rubinstein that he found a muse who would embody the text yet to be crafted. D’Annunzio considered Rubinstein the Saint’s reincarnation reproducing the androgynous images of the Italian Renaissance. [20] For d’Annunzio, Saint Sebastian combined the qualities of a vulnerable, youthful kind of beauty, defined by a physicality of dedication and pain, immanence and transcendence, all qualities he recognised in Rubinstein. The fact that she spoke with a strong Russian accent seemed negligible to him. His five-hour dramatic piece takes up the medieval miracle play and is composed “in French rhythm”, [21] that is to say, it makes use of an old-fashioned eight-syllable verse pattern.

 

Corresponding to a symbolist aesthetic, valuing sensual experience over intellectual comprehension, d’Annunzio places the greatest importance on rhythm and a physicality of utterance. In addition to this artificial, mannerist language that knits together modern and archaic terms according to musical principles, [22] d’Annunzio combines elements from different periods and cultures in terms of narrative. Sebastian – a young officer and leader of the bowmen who confides his love for Jesus against the will of the Roman emperor Diocletian who desires him, and converts to Christianity – is equated by d’Annunzio with the pagan classical figure of Adonis, and with Christ himself. In the course of five only fragmentarily linked acts, the work unfolds the ordeal by means of a sequence of supernatural, resonant images brimming with Roman, Christian, and medieval references. [23] The music was composed by Claude Debussy, who equally makes use of global sources from divergent time periods. The opulent mise-en-scène was complemented by the decorations of Léon Bakst, who provides colourful costumes and an eclectic stage design. At the centre of all this is Ida Rubinstein as Sebastian; miming, dancing, reciting, she “turns her role into song, her actions into rhythm.” [24]

 

As in her earlier roles, Rubinstein’s performance is striking in her employment of expressive, static poses. Critics note on the “supernatural harmony” and “unbelievable beauty” [25] of the poses of her body – described as “fleshless” [26] or “non-corporeal” [27]. Other descriptive terms include those of an “archaic Venus” [28] and of an “ephebe of a third gender” [29] whose beauty cannot be assigned a time or a place. [30] Her “sublime” legs find repeated mention. [31] The two explicit dance scenes – the Dance on Embers and the Passion of Christ – seem to have constituted a sequencing of precise, stylised poses, a “primitive fresco”. [32] In spite of the control involved in the positions, according to the libretto the Dance on Embers escalates in an ambivalent manner to reach a point of ecstasy. [33] In his memories, impresario Gabriel Astruc noted that “[t]he dance on glowing embers, linked to the finale of the first act, left everyone breathing heavily from excitement”. [34]

 

Ida Rubinstein in “The Dance of Embers” and ...

In the reception of Rubinstein’s body, we can observe a dominance of the motif of otherness. [35] While this otherness of her visible body was attested to exude a special erotic attraction (in the sense of an apparently ‘non-earthly’, ‘bodiless’ gender), the reviewers seem to have perceived Rubinstein’s voice as other in a disturbing, confusing way. That which appears as marking otherness in the voice Rubinstein gives to Sebastian is given multifarious – primarily negative – associations. At the premiere, a viewer, irritated by the passages in which, partly accompanied by Debussy’s music, she recited rhythmically for long stretches of time, commented “This Saint Sebastian? This is Saint Barbara!” [36] In terms of the word’s Greek root, a barbarian is a stutterer: a foreigner who is not able to articulate Greek speech in a proper manner. So that otherness is in this case linked to language in a derogatory way, with reference to Rubinstein’s Russian accent. For Proust, her pronunciation represented the otherness inherent in d’Annunzio’s work: “Everything that is strange about Annunzio takes refuge in the accent of Mme Rubinstein.” [37] Yet at the same time, she was accused by others of destroying the poet’s words through her accent. [38] There is repeated mention of her “hoarse voice”, [39] linked by Cocteau to Sebastian’s “passage […] from boyhood to maturity”, [40] while the choir leader Inghelbrecht considered it as “artificial and inhuman”. [41]

 

... in “The Passion of Christ” (André Édouard Marty, 1911)

This brief juxtaposition of some of the reviews points to how in the reception of Rubinstein’s representation of Saint Sebastian 1) voice and body are perceived as other in different ways, that is, as disturbing in the case of the former, and attractive in the case of the latter, and 2) how her otherness is intensified in the ‘discrepancy’ between the two elements. [42] Correspondingly, the saint’s ecstasy is not a being-outside-oneself in the sense of frenzy, but a purposeful setting-into-motion – an ek-stasis in the original sense of the word – of the seemingly static unity between voice and body. [43] It is precisely this queer ambivalence – as we would like to suggest – that founds the avant-gardist aesthetic of Rubinstein’s embodiment of Sebastian. This quality of what Cocteau has called the “not yet” is a not-yet-being-able-to-recognise a definite identity, a determinable gender, with the ambiguity remaining unsolved. [44] The performative differences within and between voice and body render Rubinstein’s Sebastian an iridescent figure open to a variety of projections, or, in d’Annunzio’s description: “this artist who has just enough muscles necessary to carry a drapery of dreams and of pain.” [45]

 

Rubinstein herself seems to have considered the figure of Saint Sebastian to offer her new identificatory possibilities, as part of which she could recognise and performatively make her queerness public. Thus, she placed emphasis on the fact that she is the Saint: “I do not need to rehearse. I am Saint Sebastian the moment I step on stage. I live this life, and I know his innermost feelings in that play.” [46] While her claim of not having had to rehearse is not quite true – Fokine choreographed the piece’s two dances, which she had to study in the rehearsal space surrounded by imagery of Sebastian from the Renaissance –, nevertheless we can observe striking parallels in the queer ambivalence of Sebastian’s and Rubinstein’s identities. Bakst remarked on the attraction Rubinstein feels for the Saint’s “satanically” ambiguous qualities, which she related to the facets holy – female – seductive[47] Hence we have grounds to surmise that in her incarnation of Sebastian, Rubinstein consciously played with multiple identities aiming to evade any clear-cut categorisation by constructing herself inside and outside the centred norms. Her multi-layered cultural identities and the performatively staged body of Saint Sebastian condition and mirror one another.

 

This also seems to have been the justification of the Archbishop of Paris for shortly before the premiere issuing a prohibition against Catholics attending the production’s performances. The Church considered the embodiment of a saint by a woman, who moreover is a dancer and a Jew, to constitute a blasphemous combination of spirituality and eroticism.

 

With some exceptions, the genre-based canon primarily remembers Rubinstein as a disembodied, muted silhouette. In 1938, the dramatic oratorio Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, a commission initiated and financed by Rubinstein and developed in collaboration by Paul Claudel (text) and Arthur Honegger (composition), premiered in Basel under the direction of Paul Sacher. This was to be Rubinstein’s final appearance on stage, and it seems like no accident that it is again the interweaving of voice and gestural action in the figure of the androgynous, arrow-shooting virgin (as a kind of antagonist of Saint Sebastian) that produced Rubinstein’s présence scénique in the sense of a performative queerness that enraptured the audience.

Fußnoten:

  1. ^ See Mary Louise Roberts, “Out of their orbit. Celebrities and Eccentrics in Nineteenth-Century France”, in: Judith Butler / Elisabeth Weed (eds.), Question of Gender: Joan W. Scott’s Critical Feminism, Bloomington 2011, p. 50–78, p. 55.
  2. ^ Among others these include Roberts 2011; Ingrid Hotz-Davies / Stefanie Gropper (eds.), Off Centre: Eccentricity and Gender, Special Edition of Gender Forum 27/2009; Rainer Emig, “Right in the Margins: An Eccentric View of Culture”, in: Ivan Callus / Stefan Herbrechter (eds.), Post-Theory, Culture, Criticism, Amsterdam / New York 2004, p. 93–111.
  3. ^ Hotz-Davies / Gropper, Editorial, in: ibid (eds.), Off Centre: Eccentricity and Gender, Special Edition of Gender Forum 27/2009, p. 1-14., p. 6.
  4. ^ Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performance, Durham 2003, p. 8.
  5. ^ Emig 2004, p. 93.
  6. ^ See here also Lynn Garafola, “Circles of meaning: The cultural contexts of Ida Rubinstein’s Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien”, in: Society of Dance History Scholars (eds.), Retooling the Discipline: Research and Teaching Strategies for the 21st Century, Riverside 1994, p. 27–47, p. 35.
  7. ^ Garafola, p. 33.
  8. ^ “The work on Salome dance was unique in my life. I had to teach Rubinstein simultaneously the art of the dance and to create for her the Dance of Salome [...]. Her energy and endurance were of great assistance, as was her appearance. I felt that it would be possible to do something unusual with her in the style of Botticelli. She was tall, thin, and beautiful, and was interesting material from which I had hopes of molding a unique scenic image.” Michel Fokine, Memoirs of a Ballet Master. London 1961, p. 137–138.
  9. ^ Toni Bentley, Sisters of Salome. Lincoln 2005, p. 133.
  10. ^ Louis Thomas, “Le peintre Bakst parle de Madame Ida Rubinstein”, in: Revue Critique des Idées et des Livres, February 1924, p. 95–96.
  11. ^ Valentin Svetlov, Le Ballet Contemporain. Paris 1912, quoted in Bentley 2005, p. 140.
  12. ^ Alexandre Benois, Reminiscences of the Russian Ballet. London 1941, p. 296.
  13. ^ “Everything was expressed with one single pose, with one movement, one turn of the head. Nevertheless everything was outlined and drawn clearly. Every single line was carefully thought out and felt. [...] She (Zobeida) waits for him (the sultan) with her entire body. Then (and to me the most dramatic scene) she sits utterly still while slaughter takes place around her. Death approaches her, but not the horror nor the fear of it. She majestically waits her fate – in a pose without motion. What a powerful expression without movement!” Fokine 1961, p. 155.
  14. ^ Philippe Jullian, D’Annunzio. London 1972, p. 224.
  15. ^ Judith Butler, “Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory”, in: Sue-Ellen Case (eds.), Performing Feminism. Feminist critical theory and Theatre. Baltimore/ London 1990, p. 270–282, p. 272.
  16. ^ Butler 1990, p. 272.
  17. ^ “I can say that he gave me a voice. He contributed a verbal expression to the great lyric impulse that animated me.” Ida Rubinstein, Ma premiere rencontre avec d'Annunzio, in: Conferencia, Vol. 21, Nr. 19, September 1927, p. 123.
  18. ^ Among others this includes: Phèdre (1926, music: Arthur Honegger, libretto: Paul Valéry, costumes and stage design: Léon Bakst), Boléro (1928, music: Maurice Ravel, choreography: Bronislava Nijinska, costumes and stage design: Alexandre Benois), Perséphoné (1934, music: Igor Stravinsky, libretto: André Gide, choreography: Kurt Jooss).
  19. ^ Gabriele d’Annunzio, quoted in Michael de Cossart, Ida Rubinstein (1885–1960). A Theatrical Life. Liverpool 1987, p. 27.
  20. ^ See Gabriele d’Annunzio quoted in Gabriel Astruc, Meine Skandale. Strauss, Debussy, Strawinsky. Berlin 2015, p. 53.
  21. ^ See the complete title of the libretto by d’Annunzio, “Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien. Mystère composé en rythme français”. Paris 1911.
  22. ^ See Giovanni Gullace, “The French Writings of Gabriele d’Annunzio”, in: Comparative Literature, Vol. 12, Nr. 3, Summer 1960, p. 207–228, p. 213.
  23. ^ See Gabriele d'Annunzio quoted in Astruc 2015, p. 56.
  24. ^ Gustave Cohen, “Gabriele d’Annunzio et Le Marytre de Saint-Sébastien”, in: Revue Musicale, Vol. 31, Nr. 234, 1957, p. 29–39, p. 31. See also Léon Bakst on Ida Rubinstein: “Chez elle, la parole, aussitôt émise, lui suggère la pose; le mot, pour elle, est geste.”, in Thomas 1924, p. 99.
  25. ^ See Raphael Cuttoli, “Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien: Création et reprises”, in: Revue Musicale, Vol. 31, Nr. 234, 1957, p. 9–28, p. 19.
  26. ^ Emile Vuillermoz quoted in Cuttoli 1957, p. 19: “un corps svelte et désincarné”.
  27. ^ “Where could I have found an actor whose body is so uncorporeal?” D’Annunzio quoted in Cossart 1987, p. 42.
  28. ^ Jean-Louis Vaudoyer, “La Déesse vivante”, in: Le Gaulois Paris, June 1923, p.1.
  29. ^ “Un éphèbe du 'troisième sexe', comme on l'a dit de certains personnage dans les tableaux de Botticelli.” R.M., “Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien”, in: La Revue Musicale, Vol. 11, June 1911, p. 233.
  30. ^ “La beauté de Mme Rubinstein n'est d'aucun temps et n'appartient à aucun lien; elle est vraiment insituable; comme toute les choses qui contiennent plus ou moins d'infini, elle n'a point de caractère spécial, elle n'est comparable qu'à elle-même.” See Lucien Alphonse-Daudet, 6me Saison des Ballets Russes au Chatelet, in: Collection des plus beaux numéros de Comoedia illustré et des programmes consacrés aux ballets et galas russes depuis le début à Paris, 1909–1921, 1922, p. 575–578, p. 577.
  31. ^ Marcel Proust, Lettres à Reynaldo Hahn. Paris 1956, p. 205. See also Vaudoyer 1923, p. 1.
  32. ^ “Elle nous propose une suite d'attitudes inoubliables. Elle danse, et c'est une fresque de primitif.” Pierre Scize quoted in Cuttoli 1957, p. 19.
  33. ^ “Dans une ineffable ambiguïté, le délire alterne avec l'extase, l'ardeur avec la liesse, la saltation guerrière avec la jubilation nuptiale” Gabriele d'Annunzio 1911, p. 100.
  34. ^ Astruc 2015, p. 68.
  35. ^ This reception of Rubinstein’s performances as well as parts of her self-staging are also part of the common topos around 1900 of “La belle Juive”. It is to be noted that during the period of classical modernity, the combination of woman and Jew was stereotypically equated with seduction – one might think of Salome – and hence thought to constitute the paradigmatic figure threatening the Christian male. See as an example the following statement of Rubinstein’s friend Robert de Montesquiou: “She is a projectile of a woman who goes straight to the bull's eye without bothering about anything else. It is a Hebraic virtue of which the Judiths are born.” quoted in Charles S. Mayer, “Ida Rubinstein: A Twentieth-Century Cleopatra”, in: Dance Research Journal, Vol. 20, Nr. 2, Winter 1989, p. 33–51, p. 37. For a detailed analysis of this issue see Patricia Vertinsky, “Ida Rubinstein: Dancing Decadence and The Art of the beautiful Pose”, in: Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues, Vol. 26, 2014, p. 122–146.
  36. ^ Exclamation of an anonymous visitor of the premiere on May 22, 1911 at Théâtre du Châtelet, quoted in Cuttoli 1957, p. 9.
  37. ^ “Tout ce qu’il y a d’étranger chez Annunzio s’est réfugié dans l’accent de Mme Rubinstein.” Proust 1956, p. 205.
  38. ^ “Mme. Ida Rubinstein has a deplorable voice for the stage: her diction is poor; her accent distorts the words; between her shrieks and sighs, one can hardly distinguish the author's text.” Anonymous critic quoted in Bentley 2005, p. 150.
  39. ^ Elisabeth de Gramont quoted in Cossart 1987, p. 41.
  40. ^ Jean Cocteau quoted in Cossart 1987, p. 41.
  41. ^ See Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, Mouvement contraire. Souvenirs d'un musician. Paris 1947, p. 219.
  42. ^ This ambivalence in the perception of Rubinstein is also expressed in the following description by Ferrucio Busoni: “I shall see Mlle Rubinstein, of whom it is said by one that she cannot speak but can dance; by another that she has a beautiful body, but cannot dance; by a third that her body is not womanly, therefore not beautiful. She is just like St. Sebastian, pierced with arrows by all [...].” Quoted in Elaine Brody, “The Legacy of Ida Rubinstein: Mata Hari of the Ballets Russes”, in: Journal of Musicology, Vol. 4, Nr. 4, Autumn 1985–Autumn 1986, p. 491–506, p. 498.
  43. ^ Meaning ‘out of stasis’ in its Greek origin. I owe Nicole Haitzinger the hint to this etymological meaning (J.O.).
  44. ^ “Ida Rubinstein produit aux oreilles l'impression qu'un primitif procure aux yeux: mêmes fautes de perspective touchantes, même gaucherie méticuleuse et adorable [...]. Elle fait penser à quelque vitrail animé par miracle et dont l'image un peu mal à l'aise et pleine d'un souvenir immobile, muet, translucide et sacré, n'aurait pas encore l'usage libre de sa voix récente et de ses gestes nouveaux.” (emphasis J.O.) Cocteau quoted in Cuttoli 1957, p. 18.
  45. ^ Vertinsky 2014, p. 131.
  46. ^ Vertinsky 2014, p. 132.
  47. ^ “Je sens que Mme Rubinstein est attirée par le côté sataniquement ambigu de cet être [St.Sébastien, J.O.], et qu'à être un saint, elle était ravie d'être celui dans lequel la femme, la tentatrice, la séductrice paraissait.” Bakst quoted in Thomas 1924, p. 98.

 

(25.11.2018)