The early twentieth century saw a renewed critical interest in the expressive potential of dance, sparked by the overwhelming success of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Taking Camille Mauclair's 1912 review “Karsavina et Mallarmé” as a point of departure, this article explores contemporary attitudes toward the dancing woman, the sexual potential of her body, and the desire to transcend (or erase) her corporeality. For Mauclair, Mallarmé's writings provided an intellectual lens through which dance could be detached from the physicality of the danseuse and recast as a serious artistic and intellectual pursuit. This article argues that Mauclair and other critics who sought to abstract dance from the dancer collectively articulated a cohesive alternative to the supposed “physical imperative” of this period.
Sasha Rasmussen is currently a History Innovation Fund Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Auckland | Waipapa Taumata Rau in Aotearoa New Zealand. She completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford in 2021, with a thesis entitled Feminine Feelings: Women and Sensation in Paris and St Petersburg, 1900–1913. Her research explores the particularities of women's experiences in the early twentieth century, with wider interests in urban history, sexuality and the body, music, and dance. ORCID: