By contrast, Mata Hari (Margarete van Zelle) (1876–1917) offered both public and "members only" concerts that included dances in which she displayed her nudity from beginning to end. But even before she gained noto-
riety for her espionage activities, the public seemed to regard her style of dancing, with its emphasis on exotic, Oriental effects, as the product of a courtesan personality whose chief objective was to bewitch wealthy, influential male spectators.
Mata Hari began doing nude dances for private audiences in Paris in 1905, then in Vienna and Berlin, but shortly before the war broke out her appeal started to wane, especially in Paris after the immense success of the Ballet Russes. Like Villany she was interested in photography, and she produced numerous images of herself in nude dance poses, some of which were even available as postcards. But the femme fatale image she projected through these pictures (rather than performances) was powerful enough to preclude any serious study of her dances themselves, which to this day commentators tend to dismiss as vulgar, presumably because the image she constructed conformed entirely to expectations defining the male gaze. Biographies of Mata Hari invariably teach an archaic moral lesson that more modern innovators in nude dancing were anxious to discredit: that naked dancing actually hides something, a "secret" life whose treacherous desires can have disastrous consequences for entire nations. With Mata Hari, then, we encounter an extravagant manifestation of the myth-bound perception that nudity urges us to inquire about the life of the dancer rather than about the significance of the dance itself. Moreover, the life Mata Hari constructed was such a dense web of lies, fabrications, and deceptions that it was difficult to equate her nude performances with superior honesty of identity.