Ida Rubinstein

Revolutionary Dancer, Actress, and Impresario

By Judith Chazin-Bennahum

Subjects: Performing Arts, Cultural Studies, Women's Studies, Jewish Studies, Biography
Hardcover : 9781438487977, 214 pages, March 2022
Paperback : 9781438487984, 214 pages, September 2022

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Table of contents


1. Russian Beginnings. An Early Taste for the Stage

2. On the Way to Paris, Far From Her Home, and Stardom

3. The War and Benevolence

4. Between the Wars. Fame, Some Shame, and Pain From Losses

5. War Again and the Menace of Anti-Semitism

Epilogue. Why Remember Ida Rubinstein?

Appendix. Productions by Ida Rubinstein


The critical biography of a dynamic and under-represented figure who produced and starred in some of the most innovative works of her day.


Ida Rubinstein (1883–1960) captivated Paris's dancers, composers, artists, and audiences from her time in the Ballets Russes in 1909 to her final performances in 1939. Trained in Russia as an actress and a dancer, her life spanned the artistic freedom of the Belle Époque through the ravages of World War I, the Depression, and finally World War II. This critical biography carefully examines aspects of Rubinstein's life and career that have previously received little attention. These include her early life in Russia, her writing about performance aesthetics, her curated approach to acting and dancing roles, and her encumbered position as a woman and a Jew. Rubinstein used her considerable fortune to produce dozens of plays, lyric creations, and ballets, making her one of the foremost producers of the first half of the twentieth century. Employing the greatest scenic artists, Léon Bakst and Alexander Benois; the distinguished composers Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Honegger, and Claude Debussy; celebrated writers including Paul Valéry and André Gide; and the brilliant choreographer Bronislava Nijinska, Rubinstein transformed twentieth-century theater and dance.

Judith Chazin-Bennahum is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theatre and Dance at the University of New Mexico. Her many books include René Blum and the Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life.


"An interesting, engaging story… [that] demonstrates the breadth of Rubinstein's influence in the fields of music, dance, theater, and literature. Bennahum has presented Rubinstein's story—with all the warts but with sympathy and understanding." — Elizabeth Aldrich, Retired Curator of Dance, Library of Congress

"Bennahum has done a wonderful service to readers … Her investigative research and sparkling style bring to life an intriguing figure whose importance is resonant on many levels—as a Jew between the wars, a woman in power, a performer/producer, and creative collaborator." — Suki John, Professor, Texas Christian University

"Brings Ida Rubinstein to life through a study of her correspondence with artistic collaborators, lovers, and friends, situated alongside vivid descriptions of the productions in which she appeared."— Olivia Sabee, Swarthmore College