Mia Slavenska was a famous Croatian-born Prima Ballerina. A dancer since the age of four, she became the Prima Ballerina with the Zagreb Opera. Mia Slavenska was born in what was Austria-Hungary, later to become the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Born as Mia Čorak, she changed her name soon after permanently leaving the country in 1937.
She studied in Zagreb under Josephine Weiss and made her debut in the Croatian National Theatre. Mia became Prima Ballerina in Zagreb by the age of 17. At the 1936 Berlin Dance Olympics, she won both the Choreography and Dance Award. She left Zagreb to study in Paris with former Ballets Russes principal dancer Olga Preobrazenska. Mia completed her ballet training in the Cecchetti Method under his protégé Maestro Vincenzo Celli.
For many years, Mia danced with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She moved to U.S. in the outset of the World War II, gaining her American citizenship in 1947. Also in 1947, she gave birth to her daughter Maria. In 1950, she co-founded the Slavenska-Franklin Ballet Company, with Freddie Franklin. In 1954, she became the Prima Ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.
Mia opened a ballet studio in New York in 1960. In 1961, Mia danced at Brooklyn College, New York, partnered by Igor Youskevitch. She retired from the stage on July 17th, 1961 at the American Dance Festival held at the Metropolitan Arts Center.
Later, Mia moved to California where she taught at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1969 to 1983 and concurrently at California Institute for the Arts (CalArts) from 1970 to 1983. Mia died in a California retirement home on October 5, 2002. On April 18, 2005, Mia's ashes were interred in the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb, Croatia. A biography on Mia's life was published in Croatia in 2004.
See more photos of Mia, and read a March 1973 Dance Magazine article about Mia, in our Photo Album of her.