Sacharov, Alexander (1886–1963) and Von Derp, Clotilde (born von der Planitz) (1892–1974) By Veroli, Patrizia
Alexander Sacharov and Clotilde von Derp formed one of the most celebrated dancing couples of the early 20th century. Born into different cultural contexts and trained in different techniques, they managed to join their individual talents into a performance style that was widely admired by their contemporaries. Sacharov was the first male modern dancer in Europe, while von Derp was among the early female modern dancers in the wake of Isadora Duncan’s 1904 path-breaking recital in Berlin. Their career spanned from 1910 until the 1950s, and reached its apex in the late 1910s and 1920s. Both believed in a dance subjected to the imperatives of music, and their dances made references to ancient Greece, to commedia dell’arte, and to the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo eras. Indebted to symbolist aesthetics, their signature works eschewed showy mannerisms in favour of subtle and fluid expression, vibrant musicality, and vivid theatricality. (Alexander, a painter as well as dancer and choreographer, designed their costumes.) Touring across Europe, the Americas, and East Asia, Sacharov and von Derp participated in the global circulation of dance modernism.