Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes
1909-1929

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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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Olga Alexandrovna Spessivtzeva's B-day July 18, 1895

Olga was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. She was the daughter of an opera singer. After her father's death, she was sent to an orphanage in St. Petersburg with theatrical connections. She entered St. Petersburg's Imperial Ballet Academy in 1906, where she was a student of Klavdia Kulichevskaya and later of Agrippina Vaganova.


After graduating in 1913, Olga joined the Mariinsky Theater, where she was promoted to a Soloist in 1916. Olga was an exquisite romantic dancer with perfect technique, ideally suited for roles such as Giselle and Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, she quickly became one of the most admired dancers in the company.

In 1916, Diaghilev invited her to tour with his Ballets Russes in the United States. Olga danced with Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose, Les Sylphides and the Bluebird pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty. In 1918 she returned to the Maryinsky, and was promoted to Ballerina. In 1921, Olga performed again with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as Aurora, in his revived The Sleeping Princess in London. She continued to perform with the Ballets Russes abroad, at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1923. With the aid of her ex-husband Boris Kaplun, a Bolshevik functionary and lover of the arts, she left Russia for the last time in 1924, accepting an invitation to dance as an étoile (prima ballerina) at the Paris Opera Ballet, where she remained until 1932.


In 1932, Olga made another memorable guest appearance in London, dancing Giselle with Anton Dolin. From 1932 to 1937, Olga toured with a number of companies throughout the world, performing roles from both the classical repertoire and contemporary ballets by choreographers such as Michel Fokine and Bronislava Nijinska. In 1939, Olga moved to the United States where she taught and served as an advisor to the Ballet Theatre Foundation.

Olga suffered a nervous breakdown in 1943, and she was hospitalized. Olga remained institutionalized until 1963 when, with the help of her friends Anton Dolin and Felia Doubrovska, Olga was discharged and settled in Valley Cottage on the Tolstoy Farm. The Tolstoy Farm is a Russian community run by the Tolstoy Foundation in New York's Rockland County. It was founded by Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, daughter of the novelist, as a rest home for Russians. Recovered, she lived there in peaceful retirement for nearly three decades, dying at the age of 96.

The BBC put out a short programme about her life in 1964, and two years later Anton Dolin wrote a book about her. The title of both was 'The Sleeping Ballerina'.






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