Obituary: Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild

IN MARTHA Graham's autobiography, Blood Memory (1991), she reports saying to Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, "I have never had a wardrobe woman who wore Dior and smoked Dunhill cigarettes. And," Graham continues, "she was an excellent wardrobe mistress because she would not allow a wrinkle. Not one wrinkle!" Rothschild was listed as wardrobe mistress during a Graham company tour sponsored by the US State Department because everyone had to have an official function; but the great early patron and friend of the modern dance pioneer clearly took this role seriously.

Likewise, she approached with great seriousness her role as patron, foremost of Graham and of modern dance in Israel. Batsheva de Rothschild was a daughter of Baron Edouard de Rothschild and granddaughter of Baron James de Rothschild, the founder of the French branch of the Rothschild banking family. She recalled that her family home in Paris was filled with music, often played by great artists.

She graduated from the Sorbonne in biology and was a research biologist at a laboratory in Paris until the Second World War began, when she left France with her family. She told Graham that each person could take only one small suitcase: "I had the most beautiful Vermeer by my bed table. It would have fitted in my suitcase, and I started to pack it and then I put it back. I realised if I took one thing like that I would miss all the rest."

She began post-graduate studies in biology at Columbia University in New York, then worked for the Free French both in New York and in London, and joined the French army, landing at Normandy after the invasion and becoming a liaison in Paris between the French and American forces.

In New York, she was quietly taking classes at Graham's school when she is said to have been invited to contribute $500 toward the orchestration of Graham's Deaths and Entrances. This modest beginning led to many years of generous and active support for Graham's company and school, including the purchase of the premises on East 63rd Street that until recently were home to the school.

An example of the Rothschild's active care occurred during an abortive 1950 European tour, which was to have included a first season in London. It was undertaken largely because of the Rothschild's enthusiasm and support; she had even published a book she had written on modern dance, La Danse Artistique aux USA, in France the previous year. The tour ended abruptly with an injury sustained by Graham (who had not yet reconciled herself to having understudies for her roles), but Rothschild took her to recuperate at her family home in Paris and at Graham's request took her on a tour of the family bank. Later when Graham considered adopting an American Indian baby, Rothschild reportedly offered to pay the expenses.

In the early 1950s Rothschild established a New York-based Batsheva de Rothschild Foundation for Arts and Sciences, which sponsored two showcases for modern dance in a Broadway theatre and helped establish a company headed by another modern dance pioneer, Doris Humphrey, as well as underwriting Graham's tours, among its many activities.

As a result of tours to Israel with the Graham company, Rothschild's interest in the country was kindled, and she settled there in 1962. She founded two companies seminal to the thriving dance culture of Israel. Batsheva Dance Company was formed in Tel Aviv in 1964 with Graham as its first artistic advisor, and was a full-blown modern dance company that toured internationally. Rothschild withdrew her support in 1974 when the company refused to take her protege Jeannette Ordman, as director.

In 1967 Rothschild had founded the Bat-Dor Studio of Dance in Tel Aviv with Ordman, a teacher and dancer, stressing modern dance and ballet equally; the Bat-Dor Dance Company followed the next year, with Ordmann as artistic director and active participation by Rothschild. As seen in a 1983 visit to New York, the company featured a kind of allegro, barefoot ballet with modern dance's expressive torso, danced by gutsy, attractive performers, strong movers with an inward intensity and excellent partnering abilities.

Batsheva de Rothschild's support of Israeli life, its arts and sciences, extended into many spheres. She was awarded the Israel Prize in 1989.

Marilyn Hunt

Batsheva de Rothschild, arts patron: born London 23 September 1914; married 1948 Donald Bloomingdale (marriage dissolved); died Tel Aviv 20 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?