(Born in March 9,10, 1885, St. Petersburg, Russia--d. May 26, 1978, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, Eng.), Anglo-Russian ballerina whose partnership with Vaslav Nijinsky in Mikhail Fokine's avant-garde ballets helped to revive interest in ballet in western Europe.
The daughter of a famous dancer, Platon Karsavin, she was educated at the Imperial Ballet School, St. Petersburg, under such teachers as Cecchetti, Christian Johansson, and Paul Gerdt, graduating in 1902. As ballerina at the Mariinsky Theatre she included in her repertoire Giselle and Odette-Odile in Swan Lake. Karsavina is best known as the leading ballerina of Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes from its beginning in 1909 until 1922. Between 1909 and 1914 (paired with Nijinsky until 1913) she created the majority of famous roles in Fokine's Neoromantic repertoire, including Les Sylphides, Le Spectre de la Rose, Carnaval, Firebird, Petrushka, and Thamar. She also created leading roles in Léonide Massine's The Three-Cornered Hat and Pulcinella. She came out of semiretirement in the early 1930s to revive some of her more famous roles for the Ballet Rambert and to create new ones for Frederick Ashton.
After marrying the English diplomat Henry James Bruce, Karsavina went to London (1918), where she helped found the Royal Academy of Dancing (1920), for which she organised the Teachers' Training Course and the Camargo Society (1930). She also coached Margot Fonteyn. Her writings include articles on technique for the journal Dancing Times, her autobiography Theater Street (1930), and the text Classical Ballet: The Flow of Movement (1962).

I do not know any other dancer who practices the art of shaping lyricism - the tenderest virtue of the human soul, the source of purest intimate pleasure - into a more perfect form of dance than Tamara Platonovna Karsavina does. The secret of the charm exuded by the ballerina lies in her exclusive gift for turning the dance she performs into poetry.
Each ballet role, independent of its purely technical ulties, or whether it belongs to the world of classical dance, or is a new creation - is always enveloped in the weightless, transparent veil of a dream, a poetic mist that muffles glaring outlines and avoids any angularities
The dance performed by Karsavina, imbued with charming softness and endlessly attractive womanhood, swaddled with the freshness and the purity of youth is alien to any bravura, to any tricks which often only conceal the void of inner feelings by means of the effects of dazzling brilliancy. It remains always and everywhere on plane of finished technical mastery. It cannot be otherwise, because it is only through mastery that on artist gains an understanding of all the mysteries of beauty. Karsavina's dance is congenial to the finest poem, to the most delicately formed sonnet,in which every line is a tribute to the altar of poetry and rejoices the soul. Her dance pours out tunes of pure lyricism, which contrast the stern fanfares of the stern, lacerating drama.
The lines of this dance are pure, soft, flowing and musically flexible, noble and at the same time sincere. This sincerity is just the supreme beauty in the creative genius of Karsavina, as well as in art in general; in her atmosphere blossoms the tenderest flowers of the poetry of dance, which the ballerina scatters around the whole world, flying above the forests, valleys, mountains and seas like a magic fairy with a radiant smile on her lips.

Edward Stark

Karsavina...This name evokes in many imagination the scenery of distant Hellas. In the midst of sacred laurel groves I see the marble columns of a well - proportioned ancient temple, with the fragrant smoke flowing from the altars and temple maidens crowned with roses performing their round-dances. And among them one wears a white tunic, slender and supple in her every movement. Her beautiful, classically beautiful, matt-white face bears the ancient sadness of a goddess that descended to earth from her flushed Olympus, and of yearning for her unearthly Motherland, a far-off Motherland, where an eternal feast is in progress and where hymns to Joy and Beauty resound. In her pursuit of the Echo of Joy on earth the maiden is transformed into the nymph Echo. Her effulgent snow-white tunic turns mournful violet. Lonely, sad and forgotten, she walks along the fragrant valleys of Hellas, along the banks of the silvery-sounding streams, in the red rocks, in the shade of olive groves, seeking everywhere her lost dream, as she cannot forget her bright ideal. It seems to her that she finds it in the person of the blonde-haired Narcissus. But disillusionment appears too soon, and nymph Echo again remains alone, facing her ancient sadness. Her mournful complaints are scattered in the valleys, gorges and groves as a sorrowful echo...
Thamar... This name evokes in one’s imagination the vision of a distant Orient Land, something exotic and exciting in its unresolved mystery. The interior of the harem had downy carpets into which feet sink, and soft pillows on which the idle odalisques and almees take their ease. Among these the eunuchs wander like ghosts, like pale and passionless phantoms.
They do not rejoice at the plenitude of seductive female bodies spread upon the oriental rugs whose colors reflect the whole rainbow of the sun's spectrum that shines on them. And to the sound of music, now slow and surely, now impetuous and passionate, streaming from the mysterious garden seen behind the whimsically carved arcades of the harem, she gives herself up to lonely reveries, the Shah's favorite concubine, sullenly hiding herself among the cushions of her ottoman. Her face is deadly pale. Not a spark can be seen in her eyes which are as black as a moonless night. Everything seems to be immobile in her beautiful body; the very thought of this Scheherazade seems to have fallen asleep, and her heart beats in sinful passion for the Golden Negro. Hardly visible to one's eye, her awakening body trembles under he bright motley colors of exuberant silks. The fatal hour for an Oriental tragedy has cone. Images of Hellas and visions of the East - is the balletic creative genius of Tamara Karsavina limited to these? Hellas received its culture from the Orient; in the history of Greece was a period when it was difficult to separate the culture of the Orient from the national culture of the Hellenistic spirit. But since that time centuries have passed, thousands of years have gone.
Aren't traces of this Hellenistic-Oriental spirit remaining in the soul of contemporary man? It seems to me that this spirit is still living and breathing under the layer of new European culture. Could it avoid finding asylum in the soul of the Creek-born Tamara Karsavina? The images presented by this brilliant dancer, the images of which I have just spoken, belong to the finest creations of her Hellenistic-Oriental spirit.
Do you keep in your memory the myths of classical antiquity? Do you remember the considerable part that metamorphoses, i.e. transfigurations play in them? Narcissus becomes a flower, and Echo a rock with his plaintive repetition of human speech. But what do these transfigurations mean? They imply a gift for transforming oneself into different images, and this gift is not the lot of every person but only of the artistically gifted. I would not be able to finish if I dare to enumerate all of Karsavina metamorphoses.

I remember her as a ghostly Sylphide among the veiled romantic gardens by Chopin's night; I remember her as a awesomely mournful willi illuminated by the mystical moonlight. I remember her in the enigmatic Kingdom of Shades, transformed from the treacherously murdered Bayadere into the light-winged image of a mysterious vision. I remember her as the splendidly beautiful Armide, fairy, evoked by the wicked charms of the Marquis to ruin Rene de Beaugency, and as the naive girl in her cozy little muslin-draped room, absorbed by the sweetest dream, enamoured by a Rose. And as sorrowful Arsinoya, bent in hopeless sobs over the corpse of Amon, after he had betrayed her selfless love with a momentary outburst of capricious passion for a soulless beauty, Cleopatra.
I remember her on the banks of dreamy Swan Lake, enveloped by the witchcraft of von Rothbart the Enchanter and by the love charms of Siegfried; as the incorporeal spirit of the «Preludes» in the joyful paradise of a garden seemingly by created by the genius of Botticelli; and as the sentimental Columbine, a naive German girl of the 1830's, roguishly mystifying poor Pierrot. Also as the cunning Kitry, adroitly cheating her innkeeper father in a cozy Spanish tavern, in the flickering light of multi -colored lamps and under the shower that had been scattered upon her...
But it is impossible to enumerate all of the images, all of the fairy tales, all of the legends and myths created by Karsavina. She is Queen of the wonderful flowing interpretations of these tales; she is the Fairy of Transformations...
She collects the grains of Beauty that have been scattered in the world, and turns invisible dreams and ravings into visible images. Beauty, like gold is very scarce in nature, and one must not only know how to discover gold ore, but also to win a pure bar of noble metal from it. That is why we celebrate the Mistress of Golden Dreams...

Valerian Svetlov

The art of Tamara Karsavina (1885 - 1978 ) is a brilliant phenomenon in Russian ballet. She was inculcated in the methods of the St. Petersburg school of classical dance by such eminent teachers as Pavel Gerdt, Christian Johansson, Nikolai Legat and Eugenia Sokolova. From 1902 till 1918 she worked in the Maryinsky Theatre troupe, and then left Petrograd with her husband Henry Bruce, an English diplomat. She danced in Sergei Diaghilev's «Les Ballets Russes» in Paris and found herself the focus of disputes about artistic principles and indefatiguable searches for new horizons. Being also the prima-ballerina of the Maryinsky Theatre, Karsavina danced leading and central roles in the classical repertoire: «Le Corsair», «Nutcracker», «La Bayadere, «Ciselle», «Paquita», «Swan Lake», «Sleeping Beauty», «Raymonda», «Don Quixote», «La Fille Mal Gardee», «Cleopatre», «Carnaval», «Les Sylphides»... She remained devoted to the Diaghilev company with the 1929 season, the year of the death of the greatest impresario of the XX century.
Tamara Karsavina deeply and sensitively the aspirations of expressed innovators: Mikhail Fokine, Vaclav and Bronislava Leonide Mjassine, Nijinsky, Boris Romanov. The gallery of theatrical images life by the ballerina brought to in «Petrushka», «The Firebird», «Pavilion «Carnaval», «Le Spectre d'Armide», de la Rose», «Thamar», «lslame», Dieu Bleu», «Daphnis and «Scheherazade», «Le Chloe», «Midas», «Le Chant du Tricorne», «Pulcinella» Rossignol», «Jeux», «Le formed part of the treasury of to Vera Krasovskaya, Modern art. According Karsavina «Firebird» became a time, just like the disturbing symbols of the «Swan» danced by Anna Pavlova. by Fokine for two These two images - created quote of enchantresses of dance - life and art the reflected the two roles of attempt to escape tragedy and the inevitability.
acute sensation of its «Tata» - as her beloved father, Platon Konstantinovich Karsavin (1854 - 1922) the well-known dancer of the Maryinsky stage, used to call her - followed in her father's footsteps. Her fine education (she played music and spoke French, deep knowledge and delicate intellectual attributes were deeply rooted in the traditions of her maternal grandmother (nee Paleologue) who belonged to a glorious Greek family. Her mother, educated in the Smolny institute of noble Maidens in St. Petersburg, was the niece of A.S. Khomyakov, a famous Russian thinker, philosopher and the founder of the Slavophile trend in Russian thought. The family tradition was continued by Lev Platonovich Karsavin (1882 - 1952), a Proffesor at the St.Petersburg University, a famous thinker and a medieval scholar who died tragically of tuberculosis in Abez, the Stalinist prison camp in the environs of lnta near the Polar circle...

The atmosphere that reigned in Tamara's family and circle of friends favored her thoughtful understanding of the essence of the new artistic concepts arising in the nation's ballet, music and theatrical design. Being in Diaghilev's company, she was not foreign to the experiences of the European masters of movement, painting and music. This made it possible for her to create new roles in «Le Dieu Bleu» by Reinaldo Hahn, «Daphnis and Chloe» by Maurice Ravel, «La Tragedy de Salome» by Florent Schmitt, «Pulcinella» and «Le Chant du Rossignol» by lgor Stravinsky.
The memorable soiree in the cabaret «Wandering Dog» - the artist's club in St. Petersburg - on 26thof March, 1914, became an event for ballet fans, collectors of history and Russian bibliophiles. The cabaret «Wandering Dog» which existed from 31 December 1911 to 3 of March 1915, is interwoven with the destines of a number of geniuses of Russian culture: the poets Anna Akhmatova, Nikholai Gumilev, Osip Mandelshtam and Velemir Khlebnikov; the producers Konstantin Stanislavsky, Eugen Vakhtangov, Vsevolod Meyerhold and Alexander Tairov; the choreographer Fyodor Lopokhov and Boris Romanov; the composers Serge Prokofiev, Yuri Shaporin, lgor Stravinsky and Artur Lourier; the singers Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel and Zoya Lodiy, the writers Teffi (Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya), Sasha Chorny (Alexander Clickberg), Leonid Andreyev and Fyodor Sologub; the artists Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Mstislav Doboujinsky, Sergei Soudeikin, Nathan Altman, Yuri Annenkov and Ceorgi Vereiski... impossible to enumerate them all! Here concerts and literary arguments took place, so Victor Shklovsky had good reason to write that the «Wandering Dog» was in fact a «dog of good English blood living incognito in a cellar».
Karsavina's name was on everyone's lips in 1914. The soiree in the «Wandering Dog», organized in connection with her return to the Maryinsky Theater from Paris - where she was honoured with the unofficial title «La Karsavina» (which implied supreme recognition) - reflected her success both on stage and in life. On the same character was the first publication of the club - the refined «A Bouquet for Tamara Karsavina», a booklet printed on lilac paper and containing autographed tributes in new poems by A. Akhmatova, N. Cumilev, M.Lozinsky, M. Kuzmin, P. Potermkin, G. Ivanov; together with music, articles and portraits. It was like a golden crown, a laurel wreathe a salute to the great dignity of the artist, and now, many decades later, we regard it as a unique monument in the period of Russian culture we call the Silver Age.
The soiree in honor of Tamara Karsavina was prepared with special care; it was even postponed because of this until the 28th of March, as evidenced by the additional invitations preserved in the Alexei Bakhrushin's archives. The artist Sergei Soudeikin created the designs for the costumes and decorated the cellar of the «Wandering Dog» with authentic wooden cupids from the XVIII century and old candelabra. On the mirror podium in the center of the auditorium a spectacular scene was conceived: Karsavina releasing the charming Cupid (Natasha Danilova) out of a cage woven of fresh roses. Harpsichord and viola da gamba solos were performed by Ceorgiy Komarov, Van Oren and Yuri Bildstein. Of the many description's of the Soiree let us quote some pages from the book «Theater Street» by Karsavina: «We still continued to meet at the «Wandering Dog», a distinctly Bohemian arts club, as its name suggests . Artists with permanent work and steady habits' relative Philistines of the caste, patronized the «Wandering Dog» but little. Actors hectically making a precarious living, musicians of prospective fame, poets and their muses, and a few aesthetes gathered there every night. And when I say «muses» I would like to hear off any possible misconception of these lovable species' some of unusual attire, but who did not fail to give expression to a distant personality. There was no affectation and no tire some cliche, in the manner of the fair members of the club, whether of not they were of social standing or not.
I had been brought there for the first time by a friend, a painter in the year before the war. My reception on this occasion had a certain solemnity. I was hoisted up on my chair and, slightly embarrassed, acknowledged the cheers. This ritual was equivalent to bestowing the freedom of the cellar on me; and, though not qualified as a Bohemian, I found the place congenial. It was the cellar of a big house, originally used for storing firewood: Soudeikin had decorated it - Tartaglia and Pantaleone, Smeraldina, Brigella and Carlo Gozzi himself smiled and grimaced from the walls. Applauded, an actor would come forward and offer what his mood suggested, if he was at all in the mood to do so. The poets, always amenable, recited their new poems...
I danced for them one night to the music of Couperin - the Cuckoos and Dominoes and the Chimes of Cytherea - not on the stage but amongst them, within a small space encircled by garlands of fresh flowers. The choice had been mine: in those days I dearly loved all the sweet futility of the hoops and patches and the sound of the harpsichord, which was like a glorified choir of insects. My friends responded with the «Bouquet», brought straight from the press that day. The poets had written their madrigals to me in that almanac, and some fresh ones were created and recited at supper».In the «Bouquet», the portraits, drawings, and statuettes depicting Karsavina in various roles were reproduced for the first time. First of all there was the canvas by Sergei Sorin ordered by Alexei Bakhrushin - a famous theatrical Maecenas and passionate admirer of Karsavina - portraying her in «Les Sylphides». Bakhrushin's admiration did not remain unrewarded: after the soiree in the «Wandering Dog» Karsavina gave him a number of souvenirs: her ballet shoes, the sketch by John Sargent representing her as the Firebird, with a double dedication from the model and from the artist; the statuette by Seraphim Sudbinin portraying the ballerina in «Les Sylphides» was manufactured in two versions by the imperial Porcelain Factory under the supervision of the Academician Nikolai Kachalov in 1913 and earned a considerable success at a Paris exhibition. Bakhrushin won countlee «Trophhies». There was a collection of programs, a poster by Jean Cocteau depicting Karsavina in «Le Spectre de la Rose», photos with the ballerina's autograph, and designs for costumes (including ones for the revue of fashionable clothes).
The sublime beauty of Tamara Karsavina became a symbol of the time and inspired many artists, in the «Bouquet», a famous drawing by Valentin Serov ( now in the Tretyakov Gallery) made its first appearance. Designs for Karsavina were created by Leon Bakst, Alexander Colovin, Mstislav Doboujinsky, Boris Anisfeld, Ivan Bilibin, Natalia Goncharova, Fyodor Fedorovsky, Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse and Andre Derain. Portrait drawings were made by Jean Cocteau, Valentine Cross, Ludwig Kainer, and Jean Duvalle. The iconography of Karsavina is itself a mirror of Russian and European artistic cultures in the first half of the XX century, it is no mere coincidence that poster designed by Cocteau became the epitaph of the legendary exhibition «Moscow - Paris. 1900 -1930».The author of these lines once had the a chance to buy a collection of photographs of Tamara Karsavina (taken in the studio of the Russian court photographer Karl Fischer) from a second-hand bookshop on Liteiny Prospect in St. Petersburg .Later a group of guests, members of the Anna Pavlova Society in London, came to the traditional «White Nights» arts festival and brought the news that Tamara Platonovna, the consultant and repetiteur of the Covent Garden company, had been appointed Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Dancing. My friends were so amiable that they agreed to give the old postcards to Karsavina. As a reward, I received a 1916 photo from her with an inscription saying it was a gift from her. Since that time I have been a true Karsavina fan. I have collected the editions of her book «Theater Street» published in England, France, Japan and Russia, and found the statuette by Dmitriy lvanov portraying Karsavina as Firebird, made in Petrograd in 1918. An other statuette made in Dresden in 1920 is the pride of our collection as well. it was created after a model by Prof. Paul Scheurich who sculpted it from his impression of the ballet «Carnaval». The statuette came to me from the writer Constantin Simonov who acquires it in Weimar in 1946...
My dearest Tanya (nee Aleshkevich) and I were dreaming of publishing the «Bouquet», and we composed a scenario for our friends Katya Maximova and Volodya Vasilyev, that reconstructed the legendary Soiree in the «Wandering Dog». Tanya studied with Elizabeth Cerdt (Moscow Ballet School, Helene Katulskaya (Moscow Conservatoire) and Anna Orochko (Vakhtangov Drama Studio); she did not become a ballerina, singer or actress, but she danced, sang, played music and recited poems very well, and after graduating from the Moscow University she worked for 36 seasons as an eitor in the Repertoire Department of the Bolshoi Theatre. To the blessed memory of Tanya Aleshkevich (Kiseleva), my darling silvery-sounding bell, I dedicate this book with the intention of reviving that unique volume as a rare phenomenon of musical and literary life and a museum piece. The « A Bouquet for Tamara Karsavina» is addressed to my colleagues and friends, fans of dance, music, poetry, and lovers of books.

Vadim Kiselev