Great Names of Russian Ballet



Grigorovich, Yuri Nikolayevich

(b. Jan. 2, 1927, Leningrad [now St. Petersburg], Russia, Soviet Union), Soviet dancer and choreographer who was artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet from 1962 to 1995.


Grigorovich graduated from the Leningrad Choreographic School in 1946 and joined the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Ballet, specialising in demi-caricature roles. He is best known, however, as a choreographer. The Stone Flower (1957) was one of his earliest successes at the Kirov, and two years later he remounted it for the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. In 1962 Grigorovich became the Kirov's ballet master; two years later he was appointed chief choreographer and artistic director of the Bolshoi. Grigorovich's productions at the Bolshoi included The Sleeping Beauty (1965), The Nutcracker (1966), Spartacus (1968), Swan Lake (1969), Ivan the Terrible (1975), and Angara (1976).


Grigorovich was named People's Artist of the Russian S.F.S.R. (1966), and he received the Lenin Prize (1970) and the State Prize (1977). He was also the editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Ballet. In 1995 Grigorovich was forced to resign his post with the Bolshoi amidst charges that he had allowed the company to become artistically stagnant during the last decade of his long tenure.


Kschessinskaya, Mathilde

Kschessinska also spelled KSHESSINSKA, Russian in full: MATHILDA-MARIA FELIKSOVNA KSHESINSKAYA (b. Aug. 19 [Aug. 31, New Style], 1872, Ligovo, near Peterhof [now Petrodvorets], Russia--d. Dec. 7, 1971, Paris, France), prima ballerina assoluta of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the first Russian dancer to master 32 consecutive fouettés en tournant ("whipped turns" done in place and on one leg), a feat previously performed only by Italian dancers and considered in that era the supreme achievement in dance technique.


Kschessinska studied under Christian Johansson and Enrico Cecchetti at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, graduated in 1890, and joined the Mariinsky Theatre. In 1895 she became prima ballerina assoluta, a title awarded by the Imperial Ballet to only one other dancer, the Italian Pierina Legnani. Kschessinska interpreted major roles in Cinderella, La Sylphide, Esmeralda, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty. In 1911 she danced in London with Vaslav Nijinsky in Swan Lake for Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.


Kschessinska was a close friend of both Nicholas II, who was executed in 1918, and his cousin the grand duke André, whom she married in 1921. She left Russia in 1920 and, for 30 years, taught in Paris; her pupils included Tatiana Riabouchinska and Margot Fonteyn. Her autobiography is Souvenirs de la Kschessinska (1960; Dancing in Petersburg: The Memoirs of Kschessinska).


Pavlova, Anna

in full ANNA PAVLOVNA PAVLOVA (b. Jan. 31 [Feb. 12, New Style], 1881, St. Petersburg, Russia--d. Jan. 23, 1931, The Hague, Neth.), Russian ballerina, the most celebrated dancer of her time.


Pavlova studied at the Imperial School of Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre from 1891, joined the Imperial Ballet in 1899, and became a prima ballerina in 1906. In 1909 she went to Paris on the historic tour of the Ballets Russes. After 1913 she danced independently with her own company throughout the world.


The place and time of Pavlova's birth could hardly have been better for a child with an innate talent for dancing. Tsarist Russia maintained magnificent imperial schools for the performing arts. Entry was by examination, and, although Pavlova's mother was poor--Anna's father had died when she was two years old--the child was accepted for training at the Imperial School of Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1891. (see also Index: Mariinsky Ballet)


Following ballet tradition, Pavlova learned her art from teachers who were themselves great dancers. She graduated to the Imperial Ballet in 1899 and rose steadily through the grades to become prima ballerina in 1906. By this time she had already danced Giselle with considerable success.


Almost immediately, in 1907, the pattern of her life began to emerge. That year, with a few other dancers, she went on a European tour to Riga, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Prague. She was acclaimed, and another tour took place in 1908. In 1909 the impresario Sergey Diaghilev staged a historic season of Russian ballet in Paris, and Pavlova appeared briefly with the company there and later in London. But her experience of touring with a small group had given her a taste for independence, and she never became part of Diaghilev's closely knit Ballets Russes. Her destiny was not, as was theirs, to innovate but simply to show the beauties of classical ballet throughout the world. While she was still taking leave from the Mariinsky Theatre, she danced in New York City and London in 1910 with Mikhail Mordkin.


Once she left the Imperial Ballet in 1913, her frontiers were extended. For the rest of her life, with various partners (including Laurent Novikov and Pierre Vladimirov) and companies, she was a wandering missionary for her art, giving a vast number of people their introduction to ballet. Whatever the limitations of the rest of the company, which inevitably was largely a well-trained, dedicated band of young disciples, Pavlova's own performances left those who watched them with a lasting memory of disciplined grace, poetic movement, and incarnate magic. Her quality was, above all, the powerful and elusive one of true glamour.


Pavlova's independent tours, which began in 1914, took her to remote parts of the world. These tours were managed by her husband, Victor Dandré. The repertoire of Anna Pavlova's company was in large part conventional. They danced excerpts or adaptations of Mariinsky successes such as Don Quixote, La Fille mal gardée ("The Girl Poorly Managed"), The Fairy Doll, or Giselle, of which she was an outstanding interpreter. The most famous numbers, however, were the succession of ephemeral solos, which were endowed by her with an inimitable enchantment: The Dragonfly, Californian Poppy, Gavotte, and Christmas are names that lingered in the thoughts of her audiences, together with her single choreographic endeavour, Autumn Leaves (1918).


Pavlova's enthusiasm for ethnic dances was reflected in her programs. Polish, Russian, and Mexican dances were performed. Her visits to India and Japan led her to a serious study of their dance techniques. She compiled these studies into Oriental Impressions, collaborating on the Indian scenes with Uday Shankar, later to become one of the greatest performers of Indian dance, and in this way playing an important part in the renaissance of the dance in India. (see also Index: folk dance)


Because she was the company's raison d'être, the source of its public appeal, and, therefore, its financial stability, Pavlova's burden was extreme. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that, by the end of her life, her technique was faltering, and she was relying increasingly on her unique qualities of personality.


Pavlova's personal life was undramatic apart from occasional professional headlines, as when, in 1911, she quarreled with Mordkin. For some time she kept secret her marriage to her manager, Victor Dandré, and there were no children; her maternal instincts spent themselves on her company and on a home for Russian refugee orphans, which she founded in Paris in 1920. She loved birds and animals, and her home in London, Ivy House, Hampstead, became famous for the ornamental lake with swans, beside which she was photographed and filmed, recalling her most famous solo, The Dying Swan, which the choreographer Michel Fokine had created for her in 1905. These film sequences are among the few extant of her and are included in a compilation called The Immortal Swan, together with some extracts from her solos filmed one afternoon in Hollywood, in 1924, by the actor Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.


BIBLIOGRAPHY. Works discussing Pavlova's life and career include Victor Dandré, Anna Pavlova (1932, reprinted as Anna Pavlova in Art & Life, 1979), a tribute from her husband written immediately after her death; Theodore Stier, With Pavlova Round the World (1927); and Walford Hyden, Pavlova (1931), two accounts of touring with Pavlova written by her musical directors; Harcourt Algeranoff, My Years with Pavlova (1957), one of Pavlova's leading dancers writing of his time with her company; A.H. Franks (ed.), Pavlova (1956, reprinted 1981), a symposium contributed by people who knew Pavlova, compiled for the 25th anniversary of her death; Oleg Kerensky, Anna Pavlova (1973); André Olivéroff, Flight of the Swan (1932, reprinted 1979); John Lazzarini and Roberta Lazzarini, Pavlova: Repertoire of a Legend (1980), a photographic catalog of her career; and Keith Money, Anna Pavlova, Her Life and Art (1982), a comprehensive treatment.


Preobrazhenskaya, Olga

Russian in full OLGA YOSIFOVNA PREOBRAZHENSKAYA (b. Jan. 21, 1871, St. Petersburg, Russia--d. Dec. 27, 1962, near Paris), prima ballerina and teacher who, through her studio in Paris, transmitted the elegant, refined style and classic technique of the Imperial Russian Ballet to innumerable 20th-century dancers. A member of the Mariinsky Theatre for 25 years, she danced in more than 700 performances, winning praise for her precise technique and lyrical interpretations. Her extensive repertoire included leading roles in Coppélia, La Fille mal gardée, Esmeralda, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Les Sylphides.


She began her training at the Imperial Ballet School in 1879; studied with such teachers as Enrico Cecchetti, Christian Johansson, and Nicholas Legat; and graduated and joined the Mariinsky Theatre in 1889, earning the title prima ballerina in 1900. She toured extensively in the early 1900s, making guest appearances throughout Europe. She taught at the State School in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) from 1917 until 1921 and at the Studio Wacker in Paris from 1924 until 1960, where her pupils included Irina Baronova, Tamara Toumanova, Tatiana Riabouchinska (the three "baby ballerinas" of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo), Igor Youskevitch, Milorad Miskovitch, and Margot Fonteyn.


Sergeyev, Nicholas

Sergeyev also spelled SERGUEEFF, Russian in full NIKOLAY GRIGORYEVICH SERGEYEV, or SERGEEV (b. Sept. 15, 1876, St. Petersburg, Russia--d. June 23, 1951, Nice, Fr.), Russian dancer and company manager of the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, who re-created for several western European companies the many classical ballets that had been preserved in the Russian repertoire.


Trained at the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet School, Sergeyev joined the company in 1894 and was promoted to soloist and régisseur, or stage manager, in 1904 and régisseur-général in 1914. He became unpopular with the dancers for what they considered his dictatorial control of the company, and he left Russia in 1918 with choreography for 21 ballets recorded in Stepanoff dance notation, a system used by the Imperial Ballet at the end of the 19th century. Since many of the classical ballets had not been consistently included in western European repertoires, Sergeyev was instrumental in re-creating for various companies such ballets as La Fille mal gardée, Giselle, Coppélia, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker.


Beginning in 1921, Sergeyev worked with Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, the Markova-Dolin company, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, but principally with Sadler's Wells (now the Royal) Ballet and with the International Ballet, whose director, Mona Inglesby, inherited Sergeyev's notes after his death. The Stepanoff scores are now housed in the Harvard Theater Collection.


Sergeyev, Konstantin Mikhailovich

(b. Feb. 20 [March 5, New Style], 1910, St. Petersburg, Russia--d. April 1, 1992, St. Petersburg), Russian ballet dancer and director long associated with the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Ballet as a premier danseur (1930-61) and as both artistic director and chief choreographer (1951-55; 1960-70).


In 1930 Sergeyev completed his studies with the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Kirov was added to the name in 1935; now called the Mariinsky Theatre) and joined the company. He quickly rose to leading roles in the standard repertory and in new ballets, notably Fountain of Bakhchisaray, Lost Illusions, and The Bronze Horseman. After his acclaimed partner Galina Ulanova transferred to the Bolshoi Ballet in 1944, he danced with Natalya Dudinskaya, whom he married. As a performer he was much admired for his lyrical interpretation of romantic leading roles. As director he focused mainly on classical ballet techniques in the standards but also staged such new productions as Hamlet (1970). He was dismissed from the Kirov in 1970 after company member Natalya Makarova defected while on tour in Britain, but he was reinstated as director of the choreographic school in 1973. Sergeyev was awarded numerous state honours, including the Lenin Prize (1970).


Ulanova, Galina Sergeyevna

(b. Jan. 10, 1910, St. Petersburg, Russia), first prima ballerina assoluta of the Soviet Union and a People's Artist of the Republic.


The daughter of dancers Sergey Ulanov and Marie Romanova of the Mariinsky Theatre (called the Kirov State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet during the Soviet period), Ulanova was trained in the Leningrad State School of Choreography, where she studied under Agrippina Vaganova. After graduation she joined the Kirov Theatre, where her first major creation was the role of Maria in R.V. Zakharov's Fountain of Bakhchisaray (1934). Another important creation in L.M. Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet (1940) displayed her skill as a dramatic dancer. She also excelled in such classical ballets as Giselle and Swan Lake.


In 1944 Ulanova was transferred to the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Her first appearance outside the Soviet Union was in Florence in 1951. She danced with the Bolshoi company at the Royal Opera House, London, in 1956, gaining immediate popularity, and also performed with the Bolshoi in several other countries. She made her American debut with the Bolshoi Ballet in 1959, winning accolades for Giselle and Romeo and Juliet. Her performances in films of the Bolshoi Ballet did much to increase world interest in ballet.


A lyrical dancer in the tradition of Anna Pavlova, Ulanova was considered the embodiment of the Soviet school of ballet. Appearing only occasionally after 1959 and retiring about 1963, she coached young dancers (notably the ballerina Yekaterina Maksimova in Giselle), served as ballet mistress of the Bolshoi Theatre, and occasionally wrote dance articles for Soviet journals.


Vaganova, Agrippina Yakovlevna

July 6 [June 24, old style], 1879, St. Petersburg, Russia--d. Nov. 5, 1951, Leningrad), ballerina and teacher who developed a technique and system of instruction based on the classic style of the Imperial Russian Ballet but which also incorporated aspects of the more vigorous, acrobatic Soviet ballet developed after the Revolution. Her pupils included such outstanding dancers as Marina Semenova, Natalia Dudinskaya, and Galina Ulanova. Vaganova was herself a student of outstanding teachers, and she also learned from observing Enrico Cecchetti and his student the prima ballerina Olga Preobrajenska.

Upon graduation in 1897 from the Russian Imperial School of Ballet, St. Petersburg, she joined the Mariinsky Theatre, where she became known as "queen of variations" for her soaring leaps and brilliant footwork. Although she danced the ballerina roles of Odette-Odile (Swan Lake), the Tsar-Maiden (The Humpbacked Horse), and the Mazurka (Chopiniana), she was not given official ballerina ranking until 1915, two years before her retirement from the stage.

Vaganova began her teaching career after the Revolution and in 1921 joined the Leningrad Khorteknikum (formerly the Imperial Ballet School), becoming its director in 1934. She also trained teachers at the Leningrad Ballet School (1934-41) and the Leningrad Conservatory (1946-51), where she was appointed professor. Her teaching system emphasized harmony and coordination of all parts of the body but particularly developed the back, enabling her students to make soaring leaps and manoeuvre while in the air.

She staged many ballets for the Mariinsky company (called the Kirov State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet during the Soviet period), notably Swan Lake (1933), with Galina Ulanova as Odette-Odile. In 1936 she was made Peoples' Artist of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Her writings include a collection of memoirs and letters, Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova (1958), and the widely used textbook, Fundamentals of the Classic Dance (1934), which has been translated into many languages, including an English version by Anatole Chujoy (1946).



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