This was another interesting piece I found while researching in the Columbia University newspaper and magazine indexes back in the 1990s. The author describes the transformations of Russian women, refugees from the Bolshevik Revolution, into cabaret girls, who indeed transformed the nightlife industry of Shanghai between 1910s and 1920s. As the article suggests, Russian women did a lot more to earn a living than serve as dancing partners in the cabarets. The best source on the Russian diaspora in Shanghai is Marcia Ristaino's book Port of Last Resort.
Shanghai Cabaret Girl
(Literary Digest October 23 1937)
From "Philippine Magazine"
By Marc T. Greene
The long flight of the Whites into exile after the Russian revolution brought into the Far East a strange medley of humanity. The younger folk, especially the girls, sought Shanghai, for in Shanghai it is possible to live by the wits, as many do today. Moreover, among these outcast girls were former Russian dancers, dancers of the Royal Ballet, some of them, cabaret attachés of the gay restaurants of Petersburg, once the liveliest city in Europe, courtesans and harlots of every grade from former mistresses of Grand Dukes down to street girls of Moscow and even of Tomsk and Irkutsk.
The dancers, the singers, the cabaret girls introduced the Continental cabaret to the East. And Russian femininity, some of its charm restored as its apprehensions were removed and a measure of economic security achieved, made that institution a feature of the life of Shanghai and of most of the ports of the East. In jaded Shanghai, ever on the alert for a new sensation, much addicted to the pleasures of the senses, the voluptuous Russian girl was an immediate success.
Not all of them sought the cabarets, of course, for there were some, usually daughters of poorer merchants, who had in many cases seen their parents killed at their sides, to whom the cabaret life seemed no more than a descent into immorality and who labored at shocking wages in the great stores of Shanghai rather than parade their charms.
During the lush period between 1920 and 1930 the Shanghai cabaret girl, especially if she possessed unusual charm, easily made as much as $75 a week without bartering her attractions to any greater extent than dancing with strangers for pay. She was a "dancing partner" working on commission from eight or nine in the evening until daylight or thereabouts. Half the proceeds of the dance tickets went to her, likewise a large percentage on abominable liquors sold at fantastic prices.
Thus she lived for three or four years and then, probably having indulged herself a good deal, began to fade. The first suggestion of waning charm, either in appearance, wit, or sprightliness, was the commencement of the downward path. That path many have followed in Shanghai as, if you have been much there and observed closely, you must readily have seen--seen and pitied.
The Russian girl is no longer greatly in evidence in the entertainment places of the China coast. The young Russian women now seek other pursuits.