Ida Rubinstein, diva/dancer/actress of fascination, in new Holder play

Dance · Theater

A new show opens this week in London: It’s a theatrical presentation about “dance’s forgotten diva.”

Which … I always thought … was me!

But in the reality-based universe, our friend, Christian Holder, has another dance diva in mind. Holder, the great former star principal dancer with The Joffrey Ballet and a Renaissance man, following in his family’s theatrical footsteps (his parents were both theater people, his uncle, Geoffrey Holder) has developed a passion project, “Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act.,” Christian wrote the show’s book from original materials. He directs and choreographs as well. The show, with its very handsome cast, opens soon, on September 23 and runs through mid October at London’s Playground Theatre.

From Paris to Palestine, from dancing in Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes to commissioning Ravel’s Boléro, Ida Rubinstein’s career as a dancer and impresario saw her working with Stravinsky, Nijinsky and Debussy. The former ballerina Naomi Sorkin portrays the Russian heiress whose her scandalous Salomé led her embarrassed family to commit her to an asylum, her rise to the heights of fame in Paris, her bisexual love affairs, the assassination of her long-time lover Lord Moyne, and her selfless devotion to wounded soldiers in both world wars. Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act combines text, movement, music, projections and film to evoke a long-gone era of theatrical extravagance.

There is more reason to delve into Rubinstein right now. A soon-published book by a Friend of Arts Meme (FOAM), the professor emerita of dance at Barnard College of Columbia University, Lynn Garafola, is the author of a forthcoming biography, “La Nijinska: Choreographer of the Modern,” to be published in February 2022 by Oxford University Press. Lynn shares in an email,

In 1928-1929 and again in 1931 Bronislava Nijinska served as the ballet master and resident choreographer of Rubinstein’s company, auditioning, training, and rehearsing the dancers, and staging a majority of the ballets, including the premieres of Stravinsky’s Le Baiser de la Fée (The Fairy’s Kiss) and Ravel’s Bolero and La Valse

It’s wonderful to see these woman artists get center stage once more. Encore!

Ida Rubinstein: The Final Act | The Playground Theatre | Latimer Road, London | opens Sept 23

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