THREE RUSSIAN DANCERS: DECADENCE, ART NOUVEAU, DEGENERATION

In: Experiment

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  • 1. Akim Volynsky, "Against the Grain," Dance Research, 1, No, 14 (1923), 23-44. 2. Ibid., pp. 5-6.

  • 3. Max Nordau, Degeneration, trans. George L. Mosse (New York: Howard Fertig, 1968), p. 142. 4. Alfred Binet, "Recherche sur les alterations de la conscience chez les hysteriques," Revue phitosophique, No. 27 (1889), p. 165. 5. Zinaida Vengerova, "Poety simvolisty vo Frantsii," Vestnik Evropy, No. 9 (1892), p. 117. Vengerova was sister of the famous Pushkinist Semen Vengerov and close friend of Zinaida Gippius, St. Petersburg's own fin-de-siecte Cleopatra.

  • 6: Debora Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siecle France: Politics, Psychology, and Style (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1989), p. 299. 7. Maksimil'an Voloshin, "Aisedora Dunkan," in Liki tvorchestva, eds. V. A. Manuilov, V. P. Kupchenko, A. V. Lavrov (Leningrad: Nauka, 1989), p. 394.

  • 8. Alain Corbain, "Backstage: Cries and Whispers," in A History of Primate Life. IV.- From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War, ed. Michelle Perrot, tr. Arthur Goldhammer (Cam- bridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 1990), p. 630. 9. Henri Bergson, Essai sur les donnees immediates de la conscience (Paris: Alean, 1911), ), pp. 11-14. 10. Harry Campbell, Differences in the Nervous Organization Man and Woman (London: H. K. Cambell, 1891), p. 169. 11. Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman: A Study of Human Secondary Sexuaf Characterisdics (London: Walter Scott, 1894), p. 355.

  • 12. Silverman, Art Nouveau in Fin-de-Siecle France, pp. 299-300. ' 13. Voloshin, "0 smysle tantsa," Liki tvorchestva, p. 396 14. Ibid, p. 398. 15. For a discussion of the intersection of degeneration theory and Russian cultural discourse, see 01'ga Matich, "Poszdnii Tolstoy i Blok: poputchiki po vyrozhdeniiu," in Russkaia literature i medttsina, ed. K. Bogdanov and lu. Murashov (Moscow: O.G.G.I., 2004), in press.

  • 16. Prince Peter Lieven, The Birth of Ballets-Russes, tr. L. Zarine (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1936), p. 335. 17. Ibid., p. 336. 18. Michel Fokine, Memoirs of a Ballet Master, tr. Vitale Fokine, ed. Anatole Chujoy (Bos- ton: Little, Brown, 1961), p. 222. 19. Cyril W. Beaumont, Michael Fokine and His Ballets (London: C. W. Beaumont, 1935), p. 26. 20. Tim Scholl, From Petipa io Balanchine: Classical Revival and the Modernization of Bal- let (London: Routledge, 1994), p. 46. 21. Lynn Garafola, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), pp. 28-29.

  • 22. Joseph Paget-Fredericks Papers (1893-1963). Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. Paget- Fredericks (1905-1963), a relation of Baron General Fredericks, the aide-de-camp of Nicholas 11 and patron of the arts in St. Petersburg, grew up in Berkeley, California. His father, scion of Bal- tic German lumber barons, was already bom in San Francisco. Her married Constance Paget, who presided over a well-known Berkeley salon of the 1920s, set in her home which was a rep- lica of General Fredericks's marble mansion in Petersburg (Millie Robbins, "Echo of Elegance from the City's Past," San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 2, 1960, pp. 11). ). Pavlova first visited there with her dancing partner Mordkin; Constance gave her the name Pavvy. Paget-Fredericks, a self-styled aesthete, modeling his persona on the well-known dandies of the fin de siècle Oscar Wilde and Baron Robert de Montesquiou, was an artist and lecturer on ballet and stage design, teaching at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. He had studied painting with Bakst, claiming that he was his last student. Bakst apparently visited his parent's Berkeley home as did other Russian artists. I would suggest that Paget-Fredericks's florid written style was modeled on that of Huysmans's des Esseintes (Against Namre), whose prototype was Montes- quiou, even though he writes that his description of Pavlova's impersonation of the California poppy was influenced by his mother, a great lover of flowers, and by her interest in the motor mechanisms of plants and electrical experiments mounted with the purpose of studying the emo- tions of flowers. '■.'■ ■ ■ '' .;■

  • 23. Lieven, The Birth of Ballets-Russes, p. 119. 24. Kenneth Clark, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1984), p. 25. Maia KTylova, "Nezdeshniaia somnambula: Kto ne videl Idu Rubinshtcin - ne znaet, chto takoe krasota," Nezavisimaia Gazeta, no. 199 (303 1), Sept. 19, 2003.

  • 26. Philippe Jullian, Robert de Montesquiou: A Fin-de-Si�cle Prince, tr. John Haylock and Francis King (London: Seeker & Warburg, 1967), p. 230.

  • 27.Ibid., p. 224. 28. Quoted in Michael de Cossart, Ida Rubinsaein (1855-1960): A Theatrical Life (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 1987), p. 57. ' 29. Lieven, The Birth of Ballets-Russes, p. 97 30. For a discussion of Salome in Russian literature of the turn of the twentieth century, es- pecially in Alexander Blok's writings, see Olga Matich, "Pokrovy Salomei: Eros, smert' i isto- riia," in Eros i russkii Serebrtnnyi vek, ed. Margarita Pavlova (Moscow: Novoe literatumoe obozrenie, 2004), in press.

  • 31. E. Time, Dorogi iskusstva (Moscow: Vserossiiskoe teatral'noe obshchestvo, 1967), p. 55. Quoted in Lynn Garafola, "Circles of Meaning: The Cultural Contexts of Ida Rubinstein's Le Mai-tyre de Saint Sebastian, Proceedings of the Society of Dance History Scholars, Riverside, CA: Society of Dance History Scholars, 1994, p. 33. The essay by Garafola offers an important rereading of Rubinstein's performance career. 32. V. Svetlov, Le Ballet Conemporain (Paris: M. Brunoff, 1912), p. 78.

  • 33. Rubinstein studied acting in Petersburg and Moscow, where she worked with Vasilii Geltser, himself a ballet mime, who taught mime, gesture, and expressive movement. She com- pleted a full course in dramatic performance, but had little training in ballet.

  • 34. Jullian, Robert de Montesquiou, p. 223.

  • 35. Jean Cocteau, "Cleopatre," The Decorative Art of Leon Bakst, tr. Hany Melvill (New York: Dover Publications, 1972), pp. 29-30. This edition is a republication of a catalog of Bakst's ballet designs with Cocteau's commentary, originally published by the Fine Art Society of London in 1913. 36. Rubinstein's Salome project suggests comparison with her later production of D'Annunzio's Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (i 911 which the poet wrote for Rubinstein after hav- ing seen her in Cleopatra. As in Salome, she commissioned the rest of the production, turning again to Fokine, Bakst, and Meierkhol'd. She pulled the strings behind the scenes. Although the play was not banned by the French censorship, as was the case in Petersburg, the Catholic Church issued a ban on the play five days before opening night, forbidding Catholics to attend its performance. Although this kept some theatergoers way, the Parisian public came to see the spectacle. The Vatican cancelled the play's scheduled Roman season. As Lynn Garafola writes, the fact that Sebastian was to be performed by a woman outraged the Roman church. Rubin- stein's public Jewish identity provoked displeasure in the French press (Garafola, Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, pp. 38-9).

  • Further comparison can be made between the subsequent Sebastian and the production of Cleopatra by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the First Paris Season. Both were performed at the Theatre Chatelet. Although Rubinstein did not have an entrepreneurial role in staging the ballet, she became its star performer, even eclipsing Pavlova and perhaps even Nizhinsky. She was the ballet's master of desire. Her androgynous body and uncertain gender made her an immediate homosexual icon in these Parisian circles, as did her enactment of Sebastian later. Perhaps the most striking similarity between the Russian ballet and the later production is their critical recep- tion. Consider Louis Schneider's review of Sebastian in Comoedia fllustré (1911) and Cocteau's appreciation of Cleopatre quoted in the body of the text: "In magnifrcent seuings thousands of tones gather, thousands of rich and picturesque forms.... The magic of these crimsons, of these emerald greens, the power of these golds, the song of these lapis lazuli blues ... form a specta- cle that it utterly unique. A dream you might say, where suddenly the stained-glass windows of cathedrals come alive, and one seems to contemplate that strange, mystical light that shines so sweetly under gothic vaults on the mantles, crowns, and visages of the saints .... Here is music for the eyes ... and an unforgettable vision of art" (emphases mine; Louis Schneider, "Le Mar- tyre de Saint S6bastian," Comoedia lllustre, May 23, 1911, p.2; quoted in Garafola, Diaghilev's Ballet Russes, p. 37). Like Cocteau, the reviewer interprets the performance as an extravagant synesthetic feast - as "music for the eyes." 37. lurii Tsivian, Bol'sboe kinemo (Moscow: Novoe literatumoe obozrenie, 2002), p. 38. 38. Freud, The Dora Case, p. 39.

  • 39.Teatral 'naiagazeta, Nos. 1/2. 15 (1917). Quoted in Velikoe kinemo, p. 356.

  • 40. See Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body: Death, femininity and the aesthetic (New York: Routledge, 1992). 41. Stephane Mallarme, "Ballets," in Mallarme in Prose, ed. Mary Ann Caws, trans. Caws and Rosemary Lloyd (New York: New Directions Press, 2001), p. 109. For a discussion of Sa- lome in the European decadence, see Charles Bernheimer, "Visions of Salome," in Decadent Subjects: The Idea of Decadene in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Culture of the Fin de Siècle, .. eds. T. Jefferson Kline and Naomi Schor (Baltimore: John Hopkins Univ. Press, 2002), pp. 104- 39. 42. Arnold L. Haskell (in collaboration with Walter Nouvel), DiaghileJJ:� His Artistic and Private Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1935), p. 179.

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