Introduction to Ida Rubinstein

In the mid-1990's, I found an old yellowed newspaper page on the fringes of an otherwise undistinguished garage sale in Spokane, Washington -- it was from the American Examiner, and was published in 1912. It had two large pictures of a lady named Ida Rubinstein (sometimes spelled Rubenstein), an elaborately costumed theatrical personality from Paris' Belle Epoch, a couple of spot illustrations of her, and a very strange story/interview by someone named Alan Dale, who seemed to have anything but an open mind about his subject. I am happy to contribute this material for all Rubinstein scholars to view on the World Wide Web:

Detail from scan of 1912 Newspaper
Jpeg by Michael Evans -- P.D.

Detail from scan of 1912 Newspaper
Jpeg by Michael Evans -- P.D.

Facsimile of 1912 Article Printer-Friendly Version

Over the years I found some biographies about her, and a few scattershot blurbs in reference books about Dance and dancers, so I am able to illustrate the outlines of her whole career at last. I'm not really concerned about her private life, although it has some significance in her case. There seem to be documented love affairs with just one man and one woman -- but her social circle included other women who lived life famously on their own terms -- a fact which has inspired a number of other writers to tell her story. My choice is to concentrate on her many artistic achievements.
Ida Rubinstein was remarkable in her ambition, and the quality of her collaborators. I am also leaving criticism to others.

Notes and Major Sources
Sisters of Salome by Toni Bentley
(2002 New Haven: Yale University Press)

Dancing in the Vortex; The Story of Ida Rubinstein by Vicki Woolf
(2000 Harwood Academic Publishers)

Ida Rubinstein, A Theatrical Life

by Michael de Cossart
(1987 Liverpool University Press)

Photo by Michele Mattei

Thanks to author and dancer Toni Bentley for her kind words about Ida's illustrated chronology:
The website is simply wonderful! Really quite lovely and thrilling to click through. Thanks for doing it and thank you for sending me the link.

Read about Toni's books and career at:

I followed Ms. Bentley's own footsteps in Paris to Village Voice Bookshop at 6 Rue Princess.
The kindly staff helped me locate and photograph the sites of Ida's Places in Paris.

The Internet was a great source for more vignettes, and Public Domain pictures.
Through the magic of interlibrary loans I got a copy of Dancing in the Vortex; The Story of Ida Rubinstein by Vicki Woolf (2000 Harwood Academic Publishers). Ms. Woolf is an actress like Ms. Rubinstein, and furnishes some remarkable details of her life and performances.
I also purchased Sisters of Salome by Toni Bentley (2002 New Haven: Yale University Press). She is a retired ballerina who danced for George Ballanchine. Her book gives the reader a facinating look into the culture at the turn of the 20th Century which produced 'exotic' dancers like Maud Allen, Mata Hari, Sidonie Collette (best known today as a first-rate French author), and Ida Rubinstein. Ms. Bentley manages to tell Ida's incredible story in six short chapters, while being fair and compassionate in describing her artistic efforts.
The most important source book seems to be Ida Rubinstein, A Theatrical Life by the late Michael de Cossart (1987 Liverpool University Press). His extensive research into public and private archives in France and England seemed to lay the foundation for later biographies, and likely saved the career of this remarkable person from obscurity.

When making short quotes from these books, I will credit my information -- and will do the same for any of my sources on the World Wide Web. When referring to A Theatrical Life, I have chosen to put de Cossart's full name in italics as Michael de Cossart. I'll do the same with Sisters of Salome and refer to it as Toni Bentley. References to Dancing In the Vortex will say Vicki Woolf. These names are shorter than the titles on average, but I actually wish to avoid the confusing situation of giving credit to Woolf, or V. Woolf -- Rubinstein's social circle included members of the Bloomsbury Group, and Ida Rubinstein might have even met author Virginia Woolf.

Feedback and corrections are welcome -- Contact ME