Not currently on display at the V&A

Costume Design

ca. 1920 (made)
Artist/Maker

Costume design by Paul Nash for Tamara Karsavina as Karissima for her wedding in The Truth about the Russian Dancers at the London Coliseum. One of four costumes worn by Karsavina in the production.

The Truth about the Russian Dancers, was a play by J. M. Barrie showing how Russian dancers 'love, how they marry, how they are made, with how they die and live happy ever afterwards’, which was produced by Gerald du Maurier with set and costume designs by Paul Nash. The music was by Arnold Bax. The play featured ballerina Tamara Karsavina as Karissima and she choreographed her role and the dances of the corps de ballet. She wrote in her introduction to the Dance Perspectives14, the publication of a version of the play's manuscript, Spring 1962, that the main theme of the piece was ‘that the Russian dancers are not like ordinary humans. They are called into being by a master spirit and can only express themselves through their own medium: they find it so much jollier to talk with their toes.’

‘The Sitter Out’ in the Dancing Times, April 1920, pp.527-8, noted that: 'The subject of the sketch is delightfully whimsical. Karissima (Karsavina) is a Russian dancer, and Russian dancers never speak; they dance their thoughts and their sentences; they even dance the ball into the hole when they play golf. They love and marry into the aristocracy dancing through the wedding service. They present their husbands with heirs, almost at a moment's notice, and then – the truth leaks out. Russian dancers are not ordinary mortals; they are made by their maestro, and when they give birth to a child – also a Russian dancer – it costs them their life. In this case, however, the Maestro seems to have had a generous heart, or to have repented of early wrong doings, for he brings Karissima back to life, and lies on the bier in her place.

The Truth about the Russian Dancers was one of the short plays added to the programmes at the London Coliseum following the revision of licencing regulations in 1912 which permitted music halls to present narrative works. J. M. Barrie had originally planned a play for Lydia Lopokova (an actress as well as ballerina) but this work fitted Karsavina's plans to develop her own programme along side appearing with the Ballets Russes and promote British talent on stage. Hence the invitations to Arnold Bax and Paul Nash to collaborate on the production. Karsavina, herself, choreographed her part and the dances for the corps de ballet.

The play opened within a variety programme at the London Coliseum on 15 March 1920 and ran for five weeks. It was revived at the Savoy Theatre, London, on 28 July 1926.

There are several photographs of Karsavina wearig this costume in the V&A's collection; S.39-2021, S.489-2021, S.490-2021.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Brief description
Costume design for Karissima (wedding dress) by Paul Nash, The Truth about the Russian Dancers, London Coliseum, 15 March 1920
Object history
John Carr Doughty Collection
Summary
Costume design by Paul Nash for Tamara Karsavina as Karissima for her wedding in The Truth about the Russian Dancers at the London Coliseum. One of four costumes worn by Karsavina in the production.



The Truth about the Russian Dancers, was a play by J. M. Barrie showing how Russian dancers 'love, how they marry, how they are made, with how they die and live happy ever afterwards’, which was produced by Gerald du Maurier with set and costume designs by Paul Nash. The music was by Arnold Bax. The play featured ballerina Tamara Karsavina as Karissima and she choreographed her role and the dances of the corps de ballet. She wrote in her introduction to the Dance Perspectives14, the publication of a version of the play's manuscript, Spring 1962, that the main theme of the piece was ‘that the Russian dancers are not like ordinary humans. They are called into being by a master spirit and can only express themselves through their own medium: they find it so much jollier to talk with their toes.’



‘The Sitter Out’ in the Dancing Times, April 1920, pp.527-8, noted that: 'The subject of the sketch is delightfully whimsical. Karissima (Karsavina) is a Russian dancer, and Russian dancers never speak; they dance their thoughts and their sentences; they even dance the ball into the hole when they play golf. They love and marry into the aristocracy dancing through the wedding service. They present their husbands with heirs, almost at a moment's notice, and then – the truth leaks out. Russian dancers are not ordinary mortals; they are made by their maestro, and when they give birth to a child – also a Russian dancer – it costs them their life. In this case, however, the Maestro seems to have had a generous heart, or to have repented of early wrong doings, for he brings Karissima back to life, and lies on the bier in her place.



The Truth about the Russian Dancers was one of the short plays added to the programmes at the London Coliseum following the revision of licencing regulations in 1912 which permitted music halls to present narrative works. J. M. Barrie had originally planned a play for Lydia Lopokova (an actress as well as ballerina) but this work fitted Karsavina's plans to develop her own programme along side appearing with the Ballets Russes and promote British talent on stage. Hence the invitations to Arnold Bax and Paul Nash to collaborate on the production. Karsavina, herself, choreographed her part and the dances for the corps de ballet.



The play opened within a variety programme at the London Coliseum on 15 March 1920 and ran for five weeks. It was revived at the Savoy Theatre, London, on 28 July 1926.



There are several photographs of Karsavina wearig this costume in the V&A's collection; S.39-2021, S.489-2021, S.490-2021.
Collection
Accession number
S.550-1980

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Record createdMay 12, 2011
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