Carina Ari Fiction Letter

Dear Sara,

How is retirement treating you in Sweden? I’m thinking about returning there myself after the next season. Teaching by day and dancing by night is not a lifestyle my body can take for much longer.

But enough small talk, I am writing you to tell you the news of the “great” Carina Ari. She is finished and moving to Argentina! Can you believe that? She picking up and moving her life all for the Dutch man with the alcohol business. Honestly, I never heard much about him but I just can’t believe she’s leaving dance just like that! Not to say I’m sad to see her leave Paris. I always thought she was there for the money and fame. Despite all those reviews and shows and promotions, I find her sloppy, overly emotional and way too sexual in her technique. Yet that comes from my point of view, a danseuse of the Paris Opera for over 5 years. Although some of us find her entitled and exaggerated, you could not deny that the girl had a gift to command the stage and was extremely lucky in her opportunities and finances, which in turn accelerated her rise to fame. But it’s those of us who put our nose to the grid that will earn our place in history, while her spot, if any, will simply be paid for.

She’s never had any money to start with though; things always just seemed to fall into her lap by chance. She started off going to ballet school as a child, then got a loan, that she never had to pay back mind you, to study with the great Michel Fokine! Can you believe that? She called it the first ballet scholarship in Sweden.[1] And from there she weaseled herself into that god awful Swedish movie, Erotikon, I believe? She did that all without even establishing her name as a danseuse first![2] And then she came to Paris.

That’s where I met her, at les Ballet Suedois and boy was she already so spoiled and fame-crazy. One time, half way through our contracts she got offered a role in a German film. She had the audacity to ask the famous Rolf de Maré if she could leave and go star in a GERMAN film and expected to still get paid by the company for her leave. I couldn’t believe it. I’m glad Rolf de Maré said no. I would have fired her then for the lack of respect, but she was too valuable to the group.

That was made apparent after first season of Ballet Suedios when we did Iberia. The audiences loved her Spanish influenced dances and foreign style but not for the technique or the choreography, oh no. It was her “tall, dark and sensuous figure[3]” that made all the difference. Disgusting. This was not your typical nightclub in Paris, mind you; this was ballet! I was so relieved when she left in 1923. The spotlight, only fixed on her became too much for our choreographer Börlin. He was so brilliantly talented, and yet so forgotten because of her thick thighs and exuding expression.

Again, with no money or job, she found an easier route that would bring her to the top. Instead of paying her dues like the rest of us ballerinas in Paris, Carina Ari found herself, again at the right place at the right time. That’s when she married Desiré-Émile Inghelbrecht, not surprising, I know since he was the one that supported her in her bad blood with Maré and Börlin.[4] Inghelbrecht was up and coming, a student of Debussy, and had just secured the job of music director of Opéra Comique when they were to be married. Coincidence? I think not. He was just another stepping-stone on her journey to securing her name with riches and fame. Which is exactly what happened. He practically let that girl run the show there!

Remember those Scènes Dansées? Did you ever get to see them live? I did once. I had to see if it lived up to all the review that called her ‘one of the foremost dancers of all time’ by M. Henry Malherbe. [5] I beg to differ. Her point was terrible and her body was not that of a ballerina in the least bit. And eight dances with full costume changes and scene changes, who in their right mind thinks that’s impressive? Not me. I mean we all tried modern dance, it was Paris, it was the 20s, but not to that extent. She didn’t even have a single intermission to let the audience swallow everything. She thought that they were “boring.”[6] It was over the top, extreme, and frankly, chaotic. There was nothing French about it and yet it was a European hit.[7] I will admit though, if any of us were to try that style and that kind of show, we would have been laughed off the stage. She certainly could command a stage, even if her show was ridiculous in a sense.

That confidence, money and power she miraculously acquired continued to take her to high levels up. She choreographed at the Paris Opéra, the Opera in Algiers and even back to Opera Comique and the Stockholm Royal Opera by the request of friends, colleagues and by following her husband in his endeavors as well.[8] She has everything a dancer could want, like choreographing for the Paris Opera, only a handful of women have done that![9] And it’s still not good enough for her. She takes all this luck and opportunity and throws it away.

And now look at her. Gave up dance completely, and is off to Argentina with a liqueur entrepreneur in a divorce scandal. Even though we had our artistic differences, with all those open doors she could have pushed herself to be the best and taken the world by storm. She could have gone farther and made a real name for herself rather than running away from it all in the end.

I’m terribly sorry about that rant, it nearly took up my entire letter. It just frustrates me to see someone with all those opportunities throw them all away to follow a man to Argentine of all places. Isn’t Paris supposed to be the more romantic place in the world? Clearly she will pay for it fifty years down the road when she is but a flicker in everyone’s memory. I do look forward to your response and curious to see your take on our dear Carina. For now that’s all I have, sending all my love to you in Sweden and wishing you well!

[1] Bengt Häger, “Life of Carina Ari,” The Carina Ari Foundations.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Erik Näslund. 1989. “CARINA ARI.” Dance Research 7, no. 2: 75. International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text, EBSCOhost

[4] Häger, “Life of Carina Ari.”

[5] “Music Notes Afield.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Aug 02, 1925.

[6] “ ‘From the recitals common at that time’ Carina later said, ‘I had learned that it was boring to have piano music between the items, so I had set my mind on not having a single intermission during the evening.’” Näslund, “CARINA ARI”, 76.

[7] Carina Ari took the Scènes Dansées on the road all throughout Europe to places like Theatre de Monte-Carlo where she also received rave reviews. Juditch Chazin-Bennahum, Rene Blum and the Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life (New York; Oxford, 2011), 95.

[8] Näslund, “CARINA ARI”, 78-79.

[9] Ibid.