Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

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This Blog is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and memories of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, its legendary ballet dancers, choreographers, scenery artists, musicians and composers.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lydia and Leon: February's Featured Dancer Duo

Dear Balletomanes,
February is the month that Leon Woizikowski was born in and the month that he and Lydia Sokolova both died in. Lydia Sokolova and Leon Woizikowski both danced with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes until Diaghilev's death in 1929. Lydia started with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1913 two years before Leon's wife, Helena Antonova (Lena), started with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1915, and one year before Leon joined.

Years later, Leon left Helena for Lydia. Helena and Leon's daughter Sonia also danced with the Ballets Russes, making her stage debut at 3 years old holding Cecchetti's hand.

Leon was born in Poland. He trained with Warsaw Imperial Ballet School and then studied with Enrico Cecchetti. Leon joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1916 and was an outstanding character dancer. After Diaghilev’s death, Leon joined Anna Pavlova’s company from 1929 – 1931. Betweeen 1932 and 1933 he danced with Rene Blum’s Original Ballet Russe Company creating roles in Balanchine's Cotillon and Le Concurrence. In 1935, he formed Leon Woizikowski’s Ballet Russe where is daughter, Sonia, Lydia Sokolova and Igor Youskevitch danced for his company. After the affair was made public Helena and Sonia eventually came to the United States, while Leon remained in Warsaw.

Lydia Sokolova was born, Hilda Munnings. Lydia was Diaghilev’s first English ballerina. She trained at London’s Stedman Ballet Academy. She joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1913 and remained there until his death in August of 1929. Lydia danced with the Savoy Theatre in London in 1910 and with Mikhail Mordkin's ballet company before joining Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.
Lydia’s most famous role was Chosen Maiden (seen in photo left) from Leonide Massine’s revival of Le Sacre de Printemps in 1920. Other notable performances include La boutique fantastique (1919), Il tricorno (1919), Les matelots (1925) and Le Bal (1929).
After Diaghilev’s death, Lydia danced with Leon Woizikowski’s Ballet Russe company starting in 1935. Then Sokolova returned to England to teach, coach, work on choreography and occasionally perform. Her last performance was in 1962 when she danced in the Covent Garden Royal Ballet performance of Massine's The Good-humoured Ladies.
Lydia wrote an autobiographical work on her years with the Ballets Russes titled Dancing for Diaghilev (John Murray, London, 1960).

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