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La Sylphe

May 11, 2013

La Sylphe (Edith Lambelle Langerfeld, 1883-1965), American exotic dancer, as Salome
(photo: unknown, probably USA, circa 1908)

‘La Sylphe Should Lose Her Pearls as Salome?
‘Well, Don’t Worry; She’d Put on Another Suit of ‘Em.
‘There’s So Little to the Costume in Which She Made Her Broadway Debut That, Really, She Doesn’t Stop to Think About It.
‘By Nixola Greeley-Smith
‘The most sinuous Salome that has struck New York appeared at Keith & Proctor’s Fifth Avenue Theatre yesterday, when La Sylphe made her Broadway debut.
‘The latest picture of Herodia’s dancing daughter is called ”The Remorse of Salome,” and is designed to portray the morning-after emotions of the enterprising young siren who was bound that John the Baptist should lose his head over her one way of another.
‘It is an extremely serpentine Salome which Miss Edith Lambelle – La Sylphe’s real name – presents, and there are moments in the dance when one has serious misgivings that the serpent is about to slough its skin of pearls.
‘The young woman is of extraordinary slenderness and suppleness, and her performance is a contortionary marvel. Her dance, to an uninitiated observer, suggests that she has undertaken to tell the guidance the time by the movements of her slim legs, beginning with both feet decorously together at half past six, and ending in an incredibly divergent 12.30 described on the floor and shown in the picture in The Evening World to-day.
‘DON’T WORRY, THERE ARE MORE PEARLS.
‘As La Sylphe’s clothing yesterday consisted of about a yard of spangled tulle for a skirt, and several yards of string pearls for sole covering above the waist, speculation was rife in the audience as to what would happen if one of these strings broke.
‘In La Sylphe’s dressing-room, after the performance, I thought it only right to satisfy the general wonder by asking the question.
”’Oh,” she replied, nonchalantly, ‘there are more pearls,” and waved her hand toward several yards of reserve ornaments hanging from a hook on the wall.
‘At close range La Sylphe seems very tall, and incredibly slender even then. She is five feet seven inches tall, and weighs only 109 pounds.
”’You look about sixteen,” I said to her, for it was the truth.
”’Well, I should look about sixteen,” she replied, ”If I want to be historically accurate. Salome was just about that age. In those days girls married generally at fourteen. If they didn’t they were considered passe at sixteen, and real old maids at seventeen.
”’But I don’t think there were very many old maids then. There are more now, and I think it’s a good idea. I’m going to be one. Marriage is fine for a man, but it’s rotten luck for a woman, in my opinion.”
‘I brought La Sylphe back from her views on matrimony with a question which I asked not without diffidence.
‘NOT ENOUGH OF COSTUME TO WORRY OVER.
”’How do you feel about going before so many people with practically no clothes on? Don’t you mind it?”
”’No,” replied the dancer. ”I don’t think about it. The dance calls for such a costume. Maud Allan dance it practically naked in Paris. I never did, even at the Folies Bergeres. I’ll admit I was frightened in Harlem when they told me I might be arrested. But they didn’t arrest me.
”’I’ve been among artists, and studied art so much, that I can see no harm in the nude figure. An artist in Munich gave me the idea for it. I’ve been doing it for seven years abroad, long before Maud Allan ever thought of it.
”’I’ve seen her dance, and Gertrude Hoffman’s imitation of it. Miss Hoffman doesn’t give a suggestion of the muscle dance. I give as much of the regular Eastern dance as I dare, for, of course, that’s what Salome gave.”’
(The Evening World, New York, Tuesday, 28 July 1908, p. 3c)

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