Rethinking Orientalism: Fokine, Fokina and Bakst

Looking for new inspiration for my dancing I started digging in the very beginnings of Oriental Dancing, which in my opinion starts in Europe with the spectacular success of Sergeij Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris in the early 1910s. Their repertoire covered the classical dances as well as some numbers with "oriental" or "russian" feeling which were inspired by the works of Russian composers and their fascination with Persian and Central Asian culture. The graphic designer Leon Bakst combined in a congenial way persian miniatures and contemporary fantasy to create the unique and impressive costumes of the company.
Costume draft by Leon Bakst for Zobeide in the "Sheherazade Ballet"

I have found the "Sheherazade Ballet" of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in the edition of the Ballets Russes with the choreography of Michel Fokine an inexhaustible source of inspiration regarding costumes, settings and even movements.

 A modern version of "Sheherazade" in Munich for the 100th's anniversary of the Ballets Russes in 2008

It may sound a little bit overstretched, but I see a lot of parallels between the aesthetics of the first "oriental" dancers and the latest developments of Tribal Fusion.
Exspecially the costumes with their intricate headpieces seem to have a great comeback. (Unfortunately I am not able to give all picture credits in this blog post, because I have been collecting them for a long time and I can't remember where I found them exactly. In any case they are not mine)

Mata Hari in an "Indian" setting

 Cleo de la Merode as "Salome"

Ruth St. Denis in a peacock costume
Vera Fokina from the "Ballets Russes"

Michel Fokine and Vera Fokina in "Sheherazade". Gorgeous backbend!

And at last have a look at the Ballet Sheherazade in the choreography of Fokine with Farukh Ruzimatov & Uliana Lopatkina (1999): An incredible backbend at 2:11!


  1. This is refreshing, yet classy. I especially love the costume. Great video!

  2. Hallo,

    was fuer schoene Vintagebilder.Solange schon machen auch Europaeschen Frauen Bauchtanz.

    Liebe Gruesse dach Weimar.Eine wunderschoene Stadt
    GLG Conny



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