Deutsche Version
The Sacharoffs
Two dancers within the Blaue Reiter circle

The fame of most dancers fades even while they are still alive, or at best shortly after their deaths. What remains is usually only a trail of paper in the form of photos, programmes and critics' reviews (and in case of the second half of the 20th century: perhaps some few film documents). This is not the case with the Sacharoffs, who were world famous, and whose fame has been preserved in portraits in museums and private art collections, since many of their friends were important artists of the day. The most famous work, Alexej von Jawlensky's 1909 Portrait of the Dancer Sacharoff, has been featured on dust jackets, printed on postcards and posters, used to decorate a station on the Munich underground and for the face of a wrist watch. In memoirs, diaries and collections of letters, one finds many traces of Alexander and Clotilde Sacharoff and the manifold cultural ties they maintained with their contemporaries.

Nevertheless, the information we have on Alexander Sacharoff and Clotilde von Derp, who were married in 1919, is for the most part quite vague. Since a short publication in conjunction with an exhibition in the 1960s, there has been only one other monograph on the Sacharoffs, and that was in Italian. Dance researchers have not had an easy time of it, since the wide-ranging bequest-despite sizeable losses resulting from an artistic life marked by continual travel-was dismantled by Clotilde during her own lifetime, by giving away some items and selling others. Hence, the Dansmuseet in Stockholm, then the only public collection of this kind in Europe, received numerous costumes, photos and original press clippings, and the Musée de l'Opéra in Paris received other costumes and documents. Clotilde gave other works of art and most of her husband's remaining notebooks, which were written in Russian, to the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich. Financial problems forced her to sell quite a few of the works by Jawlensky that she owned, including the famous portrait from 1909, to museums and at auctions. This was also true of all the letters she received from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (now at Yale University)-after they had been purged of anything all too personal. An entire exhibition on the Sacharoffs was sold by a gallery owner in a highly unscrupulous transaction-i.e. without the knowledge of the owner or her heirs (now at the Archives de la Ville de Lausanne). Most of the other private effects remained at Clotilde Sacharoff's residence in Italy. Other documents can be found in the Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, and in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library.

It is therefore not surprising that researchers have had such a difficult time, and that the Sacharoffs have not been honoured to the extent that would seem appropriate. The fact that a book about Munich's Schwabing district in those days includes a chapter on dance as an art form that fully ignores Clotilde von Derp and Alexander Sacharoff, yet discusses Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman using numerous illustrations from Ascona and the Lago Maggiore, is really quite absurd and is undoubtedly a result of the what has heretofore been a dearth of sources. This situation has dramatically improved since the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln (German Dance Archive Cologne, or DTK) purchased the remaining bequest at the end of 1997 with the generous support of the Kulturstiftung der Länder (Cultural Foundation of the States), the Stiftung Kunst und Kultur des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (The Foundation for Art and Culture of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia) and the SK Stiftung Kultur der Stadtsparkasse Köln (Foundation for Culture maintained by the Commercial and Savings Bank Cologne). The inventory consisted of roughly 65 costumes, sketches and drawings for over 300 set and costume designs, more than 500 dance photographs-some of them by Hugo Erfurth, Sasha Stone, Brassaï, Hoppé or d'Ora-as well as countless programmes, reviews, autographs and a collection of books.

The recently published monograph is dedicated, on the one hand, to aspects of the dancers' work with a specific focus on dance research, particularly in the early years, before their marriage in 1919. That was a time at which Munich was the creative centre in which both of them worked, a place where Alexander Sacharoff aroused attention as the first man to perform in solo at concert venues, thereby clearly demonstrating an androgynous manner that became the talk of the town, and when a young girl began to make her contribution to the development of modern dance and was greeted with thundering applause. On the other hand, this publication also examines their connections to the many artists with whom they were befriended for the first time. Alexander began by studying art in Paris and had come to Munich on the advice of his friend Moissey Kogan in 1905. He became a close friend of other Russian artists, such as Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Mogilewsky and Wladimir von Bechtejeff and joined the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in 1909. It was out of this group that the Blauer Reiter was ultimately to go forth. In a process of direct artistic exchange with almost all of the prominent members of this group, he found his calling as a dancer within their circle. As Jawlensky remembered in 1937: "In those days we were always together and he visited us almost every day. We discussed his entire training together. I always watched how he danced. He also knew and understood my art very well." Kandinsky reports on a period in which both of them collaborated with the composer, Thomas von Hartmann, on a synaesthetic work of art: "The musician chose a series of works from among my water colours that seemed to him to be the clearest in terms of their musicality. Before the dancer joined us, he played this watercolour. When the dancer joined us, the piece of music was played for him, and he transformed it into dance, he was then supposed to guess which of the watercolours it was, that he had danced."

Clotilde also had close contacts to artists. The sculptor Georg Kolbe wrote to her in 1916: "To me you are undoubtedly the foremost female dancer in Germany. Up until today I could not have imagined that there were any such dancers among us." She also served as a model for the sculptor Hermann Haller, and concerning her friendship with Jawlensky she wrote in her unpublished memoirs that "Jawlensky enjoyed putting make-up on me. He painted a red circle on my forehead and a heavy brown line down the length of my nose. I resembled one of his famous heads."

The publication of the new book, the exhibition staged in Bremen, Cologne and Munich, the forthcoming development of the Sacharoffs' bequest at the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln / SK Stiftung Kultur and the websites should aid dance scholars in documenting the lives, work and artistic milieu of these two fascinating dancers, and to make them well-known to the posterity. 

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