“The Caterpillar Dance”, 1931

“The Caterpillar Dance” Helene Shelda a young Russian dancer who was inspired by the Hindus in British India, achieves great success in Paris, 1931. Original caption: Balletstukken op naam. “De Rupsdans” Helene Shelda een jonge Russische danseres die werd gëinspireerd door de Hindoe’s in Brits-Indië, oogst grote successen in Parijs, Frankrijk 1931. | src Het GeheugenFotocollectie Het Leven

Anna Pavlova in Bacchanale

Madame Anna Pavlova (here, in Bacchanale or Bacchanal, around 1911), the celebrated Russian dancer. Beagles postcard nº 63 T. Ph. by Schneider. | src painting in light’s Flickr

Lubov Tchernicheva, 1920s

Bragaglia Brothers (Antonio Guilio Bragaglia and Arturo Bragaglia) :: The Russian ballet dancer Lubov Tchernicheva, Rome, 1920s. | src 16th Westlicht Photo Auction

The dance lives in me… (1925)

«The Dance Lives in Me, and I in the Dance». Anna Robenne interviewed by George Engelhardt. Art Lovers Magazine, December 1925 issue. Published monthly by Art Publications, Inc. | src internet archive

Mme. Anna Robenne, 1925

«The artist must be healthy, especially the dancer». Mme. Anna Robenne interviewed by George Engelhardt. Art Lovers Magazine, December 1925 issue. Published monthly by Art Publications, Inc. | src internet archive

Fokina in Der blaue Gott, 1914

Ballett Tänzerin Vera Fokina Tänzerin (Russland). Rollenporträt in dem Ballett “Der blaue Gott” (The Blue God), 1914. (Photo by Ullstein Bild). | src and hi-res Getty Images

Dancer Ludmila Alekseeva

Ludmila Alekseeva (1890-1964), early 1920s. Alekseeva studied with one of the first Russian “Duncan dancers”, Ella Rabenek. Later she creates a form of training that would develop the qualities needed for plastic dance. Alekseeva taught the art of moving beautifully: every exercise was a short plastic study. Alekseeva worked on the creation of “harmonious” gymnastics. Later, she called this “artistic gymnastics”. | src The Calvert Journal (Poetry in Motion)

As a young girl, Alekseeva (1890-1964) loved dancing. Seeing her dance, the sculptress Anna Golubkina, her neighbor in the small town of Zaraisk, sent her to Moscow to study with Rabenek. In 1911 Liudmila joined her classes and quickly became one of the company’s prime dancers. Two years later she left the company dissatisfied with both the life on the road and Rabenek’s way of teaching which appeared to her not too serious. Alekseeva realized that, in order to become professional and to compete with ballet, modern dance had to develop its own training, as efficient as the classical bar.

An ambitious dancer, she wanted to combine Anna Pavlova’s virtuosity with the performance of tragic actress. In 1914, Alekseeva opened her own studio. «She was very young, tall, slim, and ironic, with tomboy manners and a deep hypnotic voice. Her dance had nothing of ballet. It was not even dance in the usual sense of the word. Rather, she taught the art of moving graciously. Every exercise was like a short étude of danse plastique»

Her firsts choreographies were solos: the Bacchanalia to music by Saint-Saëns and The Butterfly to Grieg (in continuation of both Isadora Duncan and Anna Pavlova’s dances). Her choreography including The Dying Birds to Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, for a group of dancers, was preserved by her students.

In 1918 Alekseeva quickly realized that the wind had changed. She registered her studio with the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment. For the first anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, she choreographed a trilogy, Darkness. A Break Through. La Marceillaise, to the music by Schumann, Liszt and her husband, the composer Meerson. Allegedly, the leader of the Soviet state Vladimir Lenin attended one of the performances. Like Isadora, Alekseeva’s ambition was bringing dance to ‘the masses’ and transforming every woman’s life with the help of ‘harmonious’, or ‘artistic’ gymnastics. Later she became one of the founders of the female sport with the same name, khudozhestvennaia gimnastika.

quoted from Irina Sirotkina: The Revolutionary Body, or Was There Modern Dance in Russia?