Imagine being a child who dreams of dance, but whose body is sickly and weak. This was the great challenge presented to little Tula Ellice Finklea, a child of six, whose poor health culminated with a battle against polio. Born in Texas in 1922, there was no defence against this debilitating illness. The child, though weak in the flesh, was strong in spirit, and used the demanding nature of ballet to rebuild her small body. She began to dance at age eight, focused and determined. By twelve she had developed her strength and poise enough to begin formal ballet training, and just two years later she danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. They gave her names that were as beautiful as her dancing - Felia Siderova and Maria Istomina.
But the name she is know for is Cyd Charisse. She persevered, through physical adversity, to become one of the most celebrated dancers of the Hollywood Golden Age. When World War Two broke out her ballet company was forced to break up, and she returned to the United States where she was quickly scouted by MGM studios. It wasn't long before she became a fixture on the lot and the go-to for any film needing a little ballet. She danced in a dozen films before her breakout role as The Vamp dancing alongside Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. Though her character is never named, and only appears for about ten minutes, she proved so compelling that the sequence catapulted Charisse to enduring fame. The year the film was released MGM insured her legs against damaged for five million dollars. She performed in over twenty films in during the musical's sunset years. As demand for glamorous big budget musicals passed, Cyd turned her attention to the nightclub scene of the swinging 60s, and later took to television, with dozens of appearances to her name. She continued to perform in many years after, until a heart attack finally stilled her in 2008.
Cyd's power is perseverance. Despite the hurdles thrown at her, she endured and thrived, becoming one of the Golden Age of Glamour's most cherished dancers. So polished and passionate her performances were that dance partner Fred Astaire once described her as "beautiful dynamite", an explosion of movement so free and expressive there has never been her like since. All from a frail little girl determined to move.
What Would Cyd Wear?
Despite her precision and strong sense of discipline, Cyd was at her heart a playful, joyful person. This lighthearted American remained down to earth and humble throughout her career, so Classic Kimono would be a perfect gift from the KÂfemme collection. Its bright and cheerful colour allows Cyd's spirit to shine through, and its effervescent movement is perfect for a woman who overcame infirmity to become one of the world's most celebrated artists.