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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • NORTH TUSCANY COAST, 1948

Rite of Spring: 1924

Rite of Spring: 1924

"Madame Lubouska, National American Ballet, 1924." The Russian dancer Desiree Lubowska, whose claim to fame seems to have been the popularization of "Egyptian" poses around 1915. National Photo glass negative. View full size.

 

Honestly, some people

Fashions change, folks. Instead of focusing on her imagined flaws, we should be remarking on how skillfully the photographer froze the motion. I'd dance with that graceful lady, armpits be damned.

Madame Lubouska

Here she is in one of her classic "Egyptian Poses."

Why this was ever popular is beyond me. It reminds me of Steve Martin doing his "King Tut" routine!

Bad razors

Very few madams, unless they were Madams, shaved any portion of their tender anatomies. The only really good razors were straight razors that were unsuited to the task of depilating the fairer sex, and the disposable blades of the day generally had about as much pull as a plow mule.

Some Madams kept a servant skilled in both honing a razor and in shaving their girls. But very few non professional women bothered. In the days when an exposed ankle was considered risque, there was no need.

[By 1924, skirts were well north of the ankle. - Dave]

Proper priorities

I'd imagine Madame Loubowska's contemporaries would have been -- quite properly -- gazing at her shapely legs, and perhaps admiring her balance, rather than taking note of her underarm hair. Perhaps we take shapely legs too much for granted these days.

I actually don't think shaving under the arms came into fashion in the U.S. until a bit later in the '20s. When it would have become expected among European dancers (if indeed it ever has), I couldn't guess.

Sibling revealry

Moral of the story: Never tell your sister anything. Instead, run back to the house, fix a shareplow's lunch (bread, grapes, cheese) and return posthaste to view the wonders of nature.

You say ballet, I say belly...

Methinks stinky had either not yet reached puberty, or was stricken with the fear of later retribution, given his decision to retreat posthaste from the amateur ballet performance and bring down the curtain on the show by enlisting the wrathful services of his older sister.

Real women

Real women have hair under their arms, and wrinkles when they grow old, and dance in front of barns.

Butterfly

Sturdy ankles! She appears very light on her feet.

The sins of the past:: a confession

I grew up on a street that, prior to the early 1950's, had been a farm since the 1700's. There was a large, undeveloped field behind us that sloped down to a glen that bordered a lake and there, at the edge, was an old and decrepit single-story barn, well into the process of decay. One day, in the Summer of 1960 or so, I went into the field and headed down towards that barn but was stopped in my tracks when I saw that off in the distance below me about five local girls, all of whom I knew, were jumping and leaping like ballerinas in front of the barn - and they were all nude. Gobsmacked at the sight, I ran back to my house and told my big sister who immediately went charging down there to give them a severe tongue-lashing. I remember how they all STOPPED, frozen in place, shocked at having been discovered; and how, instantly, they dispersed, heads down and deflated. This picture reminds me of that moment. Thinking back, with the 20/20 hindsight that almost fifty years can confer, I wonder how many of those girls have carried that moment of unnecessary "shame" with them throughout their lives. Mea maxima culpa

Methinks - - -

Madame should have shaved under her arms before tripping the light fantastic.

 
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