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, July 13, 2011

Alexandra Danilova Passed Away July 13, 1997

Alexandra Danilova, or Choura, was born in Peterhorf, Russia on November 20,1903. She trained at the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersberg, Russia. After her graduation, she was asked to join the Corps de Ballet of the Soviet State Ballet at the Maryinsky Theatre. Danilova left Russian with the Soviet State Dancers, a company formed by fellow dancer Vladimir Dimitriev. During summer vacation from performances at the Maryinsky, the company toured Berlin, Germany and the dancers defected, never to return to Russia again. The company left Berlin, heading to London, where Danilova joined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1924. When Danilova was asked to audition for Diaghilev, she refused, telling him, "If I am good enough for the Maryinsky, then I am good enough for you." That same year, George Balanchine joined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes as choreographer.

When Diaghilev died suddenly in 1929, his company was disbanded. Dancers were left to find other companies to dance for, but Danilova was 28 and considered too old for most companies. She was eventually offered a position with the new Col. de Basil's Ballet Russe , by her friend Leonide Massine.

Quickly, as one of the most popular dancers of her time, many theatre's would not book Col. de Basil's Ballet Russe without Danilova! She danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1938 - 1945 where she was often partnered by Freddie Franklin. Danilova also guested with Sadler Wells in 1949, London Festival Ballet in 1952 and created her own "Great Moments of Ballet" tour dancing from 1954-1956.

Her last ballet performance was in 1957, but she appreared in a Broadway comedy/musical in 1958 called Oh, Captain!. She appeared in a single scene, a dance with the show's star, Tony Randall, which stole the show. Danilova was never good at handling her finances and found herself broke and unemployed again when ran into her friend George Balanchine on the streets of New York City in 1964. She told him of her plight and he instantly hired her to teach at the School of American Ballet. She remained with SAB until her retirement in 1989.

During her career, Danilova danced all the major ballerina roles and created principal roles in Balanchine works like The Triumph of Neptune (1926), Le Bal (1928), Dances Concertantes (1944) and La Sonnambula (1946). and she Choreographed Coppelia for NYCB in 1974. Danilova was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1989. Danilova did make an appearance in the movie "The Turning Point" as a ballet teacher and coach.

Her autobiography, Choura, was published in 1986. There is a fabulous little documentary on Felia Doubrovska, that Danilova appears in. She and Felia are restaging a variation for Mikhail Baryshnikov.

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