Photo: Mata Hari performing in 1905
After returning from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) to the Netherlands with her husband Rudolf John MacLeod, Mata Hari was legally separated in 1902 (divorced in 1906), and in 1903 she moved to Paris, where she performed as a circus horse rider using the name Lady MacLeod. Struggling to earn a livelihood, she also posed as an artist's model.
By 1905, Mata Hari became famous as an exotic dancer, adopting the stage name Mata Hari. She was a contemporary of the famous dancers Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, who were pioneers of the early modern dance movement, which looked to Egypt, India and other Asian countries for artistic inspiration. Flirtatious and openly flaunting her body, she was an instance success from her debut at the Musée Guimet on 13 March 1905.