Early life Edit
Born into a wealthy Jewish family, Rubinstein was orphaned at an early age. She had, by the standard of Russian ballet, little formal training. Under the private tutelage of Mikhail Fokine she debuted in 1909 with a single private performance of Oscar Wilde's Salomé, stripping completely nude in the course of the Dance of the Seven Veils.
Serge Diaghilev took her with the Ballets Russes and she danced the title role of Cléopâtre in the Paris season of 1909. This performance was as a powerful spectacle, the costumes were designed by Leon Bakst and the finale inspired Kees van Dongen's Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season 1909.
Depictions in Art, Ballet Edit
Rubinstein was also much celebrated in art. Her portrait by Valentin Serov in 1910 marks the most complete realization of his mature style. The Art Deco sculptor Demetre Chiparus produced a Rubinstein figurine and she was painted by Antonio de la Gandara who also produced the portraits of several famous gays, lesbians and bisexuals such as Paul Verlaine, Wineretta Singer, Sarah Bernhardt, Jean Lorrain, Gabriel Yturri and Robert de Montesquiou.
Rubinstein danced with the Ballet Russe again in the 1910 season, performing in Scheherazade, a ballet based on the first story of the Thousand and One Nights, choreographered by Michel Fokine and written by him and Léon Bakst. This was admired at the time for its racy sensuality and sumptuous staging, but these days it is rarely performed; to modern tastes, it is considered too much of a pantomime and the then fashionable Orientalism appears dated.
In 1911 she performed in Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien. Gabriele D’Annunzio wrote the part for her and it was scored by Claude Debussy. This was both a triumph for its stylized modernism and a scandal; the Archbishop of Paris requested Catholics not attend because St. Sebastian was being played by a woman and a Jew.
After she left the Ballet Russe, Rubinstein founded and funded several ballet companies and she worked with a number of important choreographers and composers including Arthur Honegger. She commissioned and performed in Maurice Ravel's Boléro in 1928, she often staged free ballet events and continued to dance until the start of the second World War.
Rubinstein is not considered to be among first rank of ballerinas; she began her training too late for that to be a possibility. She did, however, have tremendous stage presence and was able to act. She was a significant patron and she tended to commission works that suited her abilities, works that mixed dance with drama and stagecraft.
Images and paintingsEdit
- Kees van Dongen's Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season 1909 (1909)
- Valentin Serov. Portrait of Ida Rubenstein (1910) on abcgallery.com
- Antonio de la Gandara's Ida Rubinstein (1913) on jssgallery.org
- Paintings by Romaine Brooks
- Photographs of Ida Rubinstein at theatre.msu.edu
- Essay about Kees van Dongen's Souvenir of the Russian Opera Season 1909
- Toni Bentley (2005) Sisters of Salome, Bison Books, ISBN 0-8032-6241-8
- Michael de Cossart, Ida Rubinstein (1885-1960): A Theatrical Life, Liverpool University Press, ISBN 0-85323-146-X
- Article about the Bolero on NPR
- An essay on Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien
- An article about orientalism in Ballet with a description of Ida Rubinsein in Cleopaitre
- La Nave (Directed by Gabriellino D'annunzio) on the Internet Movie Database
- Antonio de La Gandara 
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