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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Premiere of Dying Swan-December 22, 1905

The Dying Swan (originally The Swan) is a ballet choreographed by Mikhail Fokine in 1905 to Camille Saint-Saëns's cello solo Le Cygne from Le Carnaval des Animaux as a pièce d'occasion for the ballerina Anna Pavlova.

The short ballet follows the last moments in the life of a swan, and was first presented in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. Inspired by swans that Anna Pavlova had seen in public parks and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Dying Swan", Anna Pavlova asked Michel Fokine, who had also read the poem, to create a solo ballet for her for a 1905 concert being given by artists from the chorus of the Imperial Mariinsky Opera.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Composer Riccardo Drigo Died Oct. 1, 1930

Riccardo Drigo was an Italian composer of ballet music and Italian Opera, a theatrical conductor, and a pianist. Drigo is most noted for his long career as Director of Music of the renowned Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, for which he composed music for the original works and revivals of the choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Riccardo Eugenio Drigo was born in Padua, Italy. Drigo attended the prestigious Venice Conservatory. Drigo graduated from the conservatory in 1864, and was hired as a rehearsal pianist at the Garibaldi Theatre in Padua.

In the spring of 1902, Drigo and a group of dancers from the Imperial Ballet were invited by Raoul Gunsbourg, director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, to produce a ballet in Monaco. Drigo composed the music for the ballet-divertissement titled La Côte d'Azur (The French Riviera), set to a libretto by Prince Albert I. The ballet premiered at the Salle Garnier on March 30, 1902, and featured the Prima ballerina Olga Preobrajenska.

Drigo's final original full-length ballet score was also Marius Petipa's final work — the fantastical La Romance d'un Bouton de rose et d'un Papillon. In 1919, Drigo was repatriated to his native Italy. For his farewell gala at the former Imperial Maryinsky Theatre, the Ballet Master, Fyodor Lopukhov mounted a new version of La Romance de la rose et le Papillon which Lopukhov staged under the title Le Conte du Bouton (The Tale of the Rosebud).

Among Drigo's original scores for the ballet, he is most noted for Le Talisman (Petipa, 1889); La Flûte magique (Ivanov, 1893); Le Réveil de Flore (Petipa, 1894); and Les Millions d’Arlequin (a.k.a. Harlequinade) (Petipa, 1900). Drigo's score for Les Millions d’Arlequin spawned a popular repertory piece, the Serenade, which the composer later adapted into the song Notturno d'Amour for Beniamino Gigli. Drigo's work on Tchaikovsky's score for Swan Lake—prepared for the important revival of Petipa and Ivanov—is certainly his most well-known adaptation of existing music.

Riccardo Drigo died on October 1,1930 at the age of 74, in his birthplace, Padua. There is now a street in Padua which is named Via Riccardo Drigo in his honour.

Le Coq d'or Premiered Oct. 7, 1909 in Moscow as an Opera - It premiered as an Opera/Ballet in Paris in 1914.

The ballet Le Coq d'or (The Golden Cockerel) was originally staged in 1914 in London and Paris, by Michel Fokine for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. This work was an opera-ballet, a danced interpretation of the Rimsky-Korsakov's epic opera of the same name, with the dancers accompanied by a chorus and solo singers.

In 1937, Fokine revised the work for the Ballets Russes company of Colonel W de Basil, creating a single-act ballet in three scenes which premiered at Covent Garden on September 23, 1937. For this straight-dance version, the Rimsky-Korsakov score was adapted and arranged by Nicolas Tcherepnin, and Fokine condensed the original opera libretto, which Vladimir Bielsky had adapted from a Pushkin poem. Artist Natalia Gontcharova based her neo-primitive set and costume designs on those she had made for the 1914 version, recreating the original curtain and modifying other elements to produce a brilliantly colourful tableau. Her costume for the Cockerel, using real gold thread, was introduced in the 1937 production, the 1914 version having used a prop to represent this character.

The United States premiere took place in the Metropolitan Opera on March 6, 1918 with Marie Sundelius in the title role, Adamo Didur and Maria Barrientos in the actual leads, and Pierre Monteux conducting.

The story of Le Coq d'or concerns the fate of the lazy King Dodon when he renegs on his promise to reward an astrologer with anything he desires in exchange for the gift of a magical golden cockerel. Dodon is seduced by the beautiful Queen of Shemakhan, against whom he has been waging war, and brings her home as his bride. When the astrologer claims the Queen as his reward, the King kills him in a fit of rage and is, in turn, killed by the cockerel. Despite the surface naivety and humour, the story has strong undercurrents of both sensuality and satire.

There is an emphasis in the 1937 version on the contrast between fantasy and reality, with the Astrologer reminding the audience at the end that, apart from himself and the Queen, all was illusion. The Golden Cockerel and the Queen are the only roles danced on pointe. Both are technically demanding, and provide strong balletic highlights amid the mime and burlesque elements.

Lydia Lopokova Birthday Oct. 21, 1892

Lydia Lopokova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on October 21, 1892. All of her siblings became ballet dancers, and one of them, Fyodor Lopukhov, was a chief choreographer of the Mariinsky Theatre from 1922-1935 and 1951-1956.

Lydia trained at the Imperial Ballet School. She left Russia in 1910, joining the Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. She stayed with the ballet briefly, leaving for the United States after the summer tour. She rejoined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1916, dancing with her former partner Vaslav Nijinsky, in New York and later in London. She first came to the attention of Londoners in The Good-Humoured Ladies in 1918, and followed this with a raucous performance with Léonide Massine in the Can-Can of La Boutique Fantasque.

When her marriage to the company's business manager, Randolfo Barrochi, broke down in 1919, the dancer abruptly disappeared, but she decided to rejoin the Diaghilev for the second time in 1921, when she danced the Lilac Fairy and Princess Aurora in 'The Sleeping Princess'. During these years she became a friend of Stravinsky, and of Picasso, who drew her many times.

Lydia was known also as Lady Keynes, the wife of the economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1933, Lydia danced her last ballet role, as Swanilda in Coppélia, for the new Vic-Wells Ballet.

Read about her and her life in Bloomsbury book Ballerina.

Artist Picasso's Birthday Oct. 25, 1881

Parade was Picasso’s first collaboration with the Ballets Russes and in a letter sent to a friend, Jean Cocteau the librettist said “Picasso amazes me every day, to live near him is a lesson in nobility and hard work” (Rothschild 49).

Picasso’s studio in Rome had a little crate that held the model of "Parade" with its trees and houses, and on a table were the painted characters: the Chinaman, Managers, American girl, and horse.

Cocteau described his friend’s unusual artistic process: “A badly drawn figure of Picasso is the result of endless well-drawn figures he erases, corrects, covers over, and which serves him as a foundation. In opposition to all schools he seems to end his work with a sketch.” The audiences were amazed by the first ballet to have cubist costumes, sets, and choreography.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Serge Diaghilev-Ballet Impressario, Died August 19, 1929

Serge Diaghilev was a law student when he came to St. Petersburg. While there he became co-founder of the progressive art magazine Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art) in 1899. The same year he was appointed artistic adviser of the Maryinsky Theatre. He resigned this post in 1901 and when the magazine stopped publishing in 1904, and he concentrated on organizing exhibitions of Russian art in St. Petersburg and Paris. In 1908 he brought a production of Boris Godunov to Paris, with the famous singer, Feodor Chaliapin. In 1909, he brought to Paris a season of opera and ballet and, with the best dancers from the Maryinsky, and he scored a great success. Prior to 1909, an independent ballet company was almost unheard of. Most ballet companies were part of an opera company or was subsidized by the court or the ruling power. The Paris Opera was the home of the ballet, even in Russia the ballet was part of the opera. In 1909, when Diaghilev decided to bring a small company of dancers to Paris he did this by bringing the great opera star Chaliapin to share the program. Both people in Russia and Paris thought that he was crazy. Diaghilev struggled to get enough money for his Paris project. After the first season in Paris, he had to raise money again, during the dancers yearly time off. He had to get them back to St. Petrersburg before their season started.

After the innagural performance May 19, 1909, repeat visits in the following years resulted in the formation of the Ballets Russes in 1911 as an independent private company. The final season for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was in 1929. Diaghilev died in Venice, Italy, on August 19, 1929, and is buried on the nearby island of San Michele.

Although Diaghilev reformed European ballet, his company was often on the verge of bankruptcy. He never returned to Russia after the 1917 revolution. In fact, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes never performed in Russia. With his infallible flair, and his immaculate taste he anticipated what the audiences wanted. Instead of a full-length ballets he gave them Aurora's Wedding, and the second act of Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, La Boutique Fantastique, Les Biches, Jeux, and many more.

Composer Alexander Galzunov's Birthday August 10th

Alexander Glazunov was born on August 10, 1865 in St. Petersburg, Russia and dies on March 21, 1936 in Paris, France. Glazunov studied privately with Rimsky-Korsakov from 1879 through 1881 and had his First Symphony performed when he was 16.

He wrote the music for three of Petipa ballets: Raymonda in 1898, the work for which he is best known, Les Ruses d'amour in 1900, and Les Saisons in 1900. George Balanchine used music from Raymonda for his Pas de dix (1955), Raymonda Variations (1961), and Cortège hongrois (1973). Choreographer Ashton, used selections from Glazunov's music for his Birthday Offering in 1956.

Gorsky choreographed his 5th Symphony in 1916, one of the world's first symphonic ballets. And more recently, Twyla Tharp used Glazunov's Scènes de ballet for The Little Ballet in 1984. Anna Pavlova danced Pandéros in the Petipa/Glazunov Raymonda, in Saint Petersburg, in 1910. Glazunov became a member of the circle around the patron Belyayev, who took him to meet Liszt in Weimar in1899. Glazunov was appointed to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which he directed from 1905 until leaving the Soviet Union in 1928. Glazunov's life in exile, which included an unsuccessful tour of the United States, was difficult but did not suppress his creative energy. He traveled around the world for several years, eventually settling in Paris. Music composed during this period includes the Concerto-Ballata for Cello and Orchestra and the Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Strings, a standard work of the saxophone repertoire.

Lubov Egorova Born August 8, 1880 Died August 18, 1972

Lubov Egorova was born in St. Petersberg on August 8th, 1880. She graduated from the Imperial Ballet Academy in 1898, the same year as her classmate Mikhail Fokine. After graduation she joined the Maryinsky Theatre. After Nicolas Legat succeeded Marius Petipa, he used Lobov as Myrtha in Giselle. She gave her farewell performance at the Mariinsky Theatre 22 January 1917 in Swan Lake. She received great praise for the role and her performance caught the attention of Diaghilev.

In 1918, Diaghilev brought her to Paris to dance Princess Florine in Ballets Russes The Sleeping Beauty. There Lubov had the chance to be partnered by Vaslav Nijinsky. She is noted to have been overwhelmed by his artistry. Then in 1921, she danced Aurora in Diaghilev’s famous Sleeping Princess production in London. Her most important roles were the title role in Petipa's Blue Dahlia 1905, Myrtha in Giselle 1907, the title role in Raymonda 1910, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty 1911, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake 1913 and title role in Giselle 1914. She also danced Kitri in Don Quixote, the title role in Laurencia and Auspicia in Pharao’s Daughter.

Lubov married Prince Troubetsky, becoming Princess Nikita Troubetzkoy and began teaching ballet. She was a influential teacher in Paris 1923-1968, among her pupils where Serge Lifar and Anton Dolin. In 1937, she founded a small company called Ballets de la Jeunesse. In 1964, she was awarded the Chevalier de l'Ordre des arts et lettres.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Colonel Wassily de Basil Died July 27, 1951

Colonel Wassily de Basil was born Vassily Grigorievich Voskresensky in Kaunas, Lithuania. He is said to have been a colonel in the Cossack army although his claim to the title "Colonel" is disputed. De Basil was demobilised from the army in 1919 and worked as an entrepreneur in Paris.
Following the death of
Sergei Diaghilev in 1929, the members of his Ballets Russes went in many directions. De Basil and René Blum, ballet director at the Monte Carlo Opera, founded the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo in 1931. The ballet gave its first performance in Monte Carlo in 1932. Blum and de Basil did not agree artistically, leading to a split, after which Col. Basil renamed his company initially Ballets Russes de Colonel W. de Basil.

When Massine discovered his ballets belonged to Colonel de Basil, he brought a law suit in London that captured the imagination of the press. They reported the events of the trial daily. Finally, the courts decided Colonel de Basil did own the ballets. Both companies could use the name Ballet Russe, but de Basil had to drop "de Monte Carlo." Sol Hurok also severed his connection with Colonel de Basil's company and became manager for Leonide Massine and Rene Blum. Sol Hurok was sure the American public could not support two companies, so he tried to get the companies back together.

Meanwhile, Col. W. de Basil's company called themselves Covent Garden Ballet Russe, and finally Original Ballet Russe. In 1938, the two companies were performing in London at the same time. Col. de Basil was at Covent Garden and Blum was two blocks away at the Drury Lane. Ballet lovers could run back and forth, from one theater to the other, and see the ballets of their choice.

Through an all-night session, the management of the two companies got together and ironed out their differences. But at the last moment Colonel W. de Basil said no to the offer. Once Hurok was managing both companies at the same time, and he booked the Ballet Russe to play four weeks at the Hollywood Theatre (now called the Mark Hellinger), immediately followed by the Original Ballet Russe. It was the longest ballet season to hit New York -- a solid fifteen weeks. For years, dancers would perform in one company one season and in another company the next.

Vera Karalli's Birthday! July 27, 1889

Vera was born in Moscow and graduated from the Moscow Theatre School in 1906 under the direction of the prominent Russian instructor Alexander Gorsky. She performed with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in the premier season in Paris in 1909, as well as 1919 and 1920. She became a soloist at the Bolshoi Theatre after two years and became a Ballerina in 1915. Vera was often paired with danseur Mikhail Mordkin.

In 1914, Vera Karalli also embarked on a successful acting career, and became one of Russia's first celebrated film actresses. Her first role was in the 1914 Pyotr Chardynin directed drama Ty pomnish' li? opposite the successful actor Ivan Mozzhukhin. From 1914 to 1919, Vera Karalli would appear in approximately sixteen Russian silent films, including the 1915 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace entitled Voyna i mir.

Her last film appearance was in a German dramatic release entitled Die Reiche einer Frau in 1921. Often chosen as a leading lady by the notable director Yevgeni Bauer, Karalli is possibly best recalled for her performances in the Bauer directed adaptations of novelist Ivan Turgenev's Posle smerti in 1915 and her role as Gizella in the 1917 melodrama Umirayushchii Lebed.

In 1920, Karalli participated in a large a charity concert at the Paris Opéra along with opera singer and dancer Maria Kuznetsova amongst others, to raise funds to aid impoverished fellow Russian émigrés.

Vera Karalli also taught dance in Kaunas, Lithuania and from 1930 until 1935, Vera was the Ballet Mistress of the Romanian Opera in the capital city of Bucharest. From 1938 until 1941 Karalli lived in Paris, France. Later, she settled in Vienna, Austria and taught ballet there until her death in Baden, Austria in 1972.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sir Anton Dolin - Born July 27, 1904

Sir Anton Dolin was born in Slinfold in Sussex, England. Dolin was trained by the notable Russian teachers Serafima Astafieva and Bronislava Nijinska. Anton joined the Corps de Ballet of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1921. As a soloist with Diaghilev’s company, he created the leading role in Nijinska’s Train Bleu (1924) and an important role (one of two Servants) in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son (1929). Dolin was also noted for such creations as Satan in Ninette de Valois’s Job (1931) and the title role in Michel Fokine’s Bluebeard (1941).

Dolin joined the Ballet Theatre, (now American Ballet Theatre) at its inception in 1940, remaining until 1946 as a dancer and choreographer.

Dolin was a Principal danseur with the Vic-Wells Ballet (now Royal Ballet) in the 1930s where he danced with Alicia Markova. Later, Dolin and Markova went on to found the Markova-Dolin Ballet. In 1949, he and Markova founded another company that in 1950 became London’s Festival Ballet; Dolin was premier danseur and artistic director until 1961. He then organized and toured with the troupe Stars of the Ballet, worked as choreographer and director of the Rome Opera Ballet, and served as artistic adviser to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.

As a Choreographer, Dolin's original ballets include Capriccioso (1940), The Romantic Age (1942), and Variations for Four (1957), a popular all-male divertissement. Dolin is particularly noted for his reconstruction (1941) of Jules Perrot’s classical divertissement, Pas de Quatre.

Dolin wrote several books, including the autobiography Ballet Go Round (1938) and Alicia Markova: Her Life and Art (1953). He was knighted in 1981, and died in Paris, France in 1983.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Choreographer Marius Petipa's Passing - July 14, 1910

Marius Petipa was a French ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer who is noted for his long career as Premier Maître de Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, a position he held from 1871 until 1903. Marius Petipa created over fifty ballets and is considered to be the most influential ballet master and choreographer of ballet that has ever lived.

Petipa revived a substantial number of works created by other Ballet Masters. Many of these revivals would go on to become the definitive editions from which all subsequent productions would be based. The most famous of these revivals are Le Corsaire, Giselle, La Esmeralda, Coppélia, La Fille Mal Gardée (with Lev Ivanov), The Little Humpbacked Horse and Swan Lake (with Lev Ivanov).

Marius Petipa was born in Marseilles, France on March 11,1818. His mother Victorine Grasseau was an actress and drama, teacher, while his father, Jean Antoine Petipa was a renowned Ballet Master and teacher. At the time of Marius's birth, Jean Petipa was a Premier danseur to the the Opéra de Marseille, and in 1819 he was appointed Maître de Ballet to that theatre.

Petipa spent his early childhood travelling throughout Europe as his parents' professional engagements took them from city to city. By the time Marius was 6 years old his family had settled in Brussels, where his father was appointed Maître de Ballet and Premier danseur to the Théâtre de la Monnaie. Petipa received his general education at the Grand College in Brussels, while also attending the Brussels Conservatory where he studied music and learned to play the violin. Jean Petipa began giving Marius ballet lessons at the age of seven. At first the young boy resisted, caring very little for dance. But Marius soon came to love dance so much, and he excelled quickly. In 1827, at the age of 9, Marius performed for the first time in a ballet production in his father's staging of Pierre Gardel's 1800 ballet La Dansomani.

In 1834 the Petipa family relocated to Bordeaux, France. While in Bordeaux, Marius completed his ballet training under the great Auguste Vestris. By 1838 he was appointed Premier danseur to the Ballet de Nantes in Nantes, France. During his time in Nantes the young Petipa began to try his hand at choreography by creating a number of one-act ballets and divertissements.

By 1840, Petipa had made his début as a dancer with the famous Comédie Française in Paris, and during his first performance with the troupe he partnered the legendary Ballerina Carlotta Grisi in a benefit performance. In 1847, Petipa accepted the position of Premier danseur to the Imperial Theatres of St. Petersburg. The position was available due to the departure of the French danseur Emile Gredlu.

For Petipa's début, the director of the Imperial Theatres Alexander Gedeonov commissioned Petipa and the Ballet Master Pierre-Frédéric Malevergne to mount the first Russian production of Joseph Mazilier's ballet Paquita, first staged at the Paris Opéra in 1846. The ballet was given for the first time in St. Petersburg on October 8, 1847 with the Prima ballerina Yelena Andreyonova as Paquita and Petipa in the role of Lucien d’Hervilly.

The following season Petipa and his father staged a revival of Mazilier's 1840 ballet Le Diable amoureux which premiered as Satanella on February 22, 1848. The Prima Ballerina Andreyonova performed the title role, with Petipa as Fabio.

During his career, Petipa choreographed ballets and revivals including:

*Paquita (1847, *1881),*Le Corsaire (1858, 1863, 1868, 1885, 1899),The Pharaoh's Daughter (1862, *1885, *1898), Le Roi Candaule (1868, *1891, *1903), Don Quixote (1869, *1871), La Bayadère (1877, *1900), *Giselle (1884, 1899, 1903), *Coppélia (1884), *La fille mal gardée (1885), *La Esmeralda (1886, 1899), The Talisman (1889), The Sleeping Beauty (1890)
The Nutcracker (1892), Cinderella (1893), The Awakening of Flora (1894),*Swan Lake (1895)
*The Little Humpbacked Horse (1895), Raymonda (1898), The Seasons (1900), Harlequinade (1900).

Marius Petipa died on July 14, 1910 at the age of ninety-two, and was interred three days later in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg.(Petipa's funeral - photo above)

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'.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mia Slavenska - Retired From Stage July 17, 1961

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.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mikhail Mordkin Passed Away July 15, 1944

Mikhail Mikhailovich Mordkin, Russian dancer and teacher was born in Moscow, on December 9, 1880, into the family of the violinist of the Imperial Theatres. At the age of nine he entered Moscow Imperial Ballet School. Mikhail Mordkin was one of two of the male stars of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1909. Mordkin was trained at the Bolshoi, in Moscow, graduating from the Bolshoi Ballet School in 1899. In the same year, he was appointed soloist and then premier danseur. He joined Diaghilev for his Paris season as a leading dancer, ranking above Nijinsky. On the opening night of Ballets Russes in Paris in 1909, Mordkin danced the leading role in Michael Fokine's Le Pavillon d'Armide.

After the first season, he remained in Paris to dance with Anna Pavlova, going on to form his own company, All Star Imperial Russian Ballet, which toured America in 1911 and 1912. Mikhail returned to the Bolshoi and was appointed its Director in 1917.

He left Russia after the October Revolution, first working in Lithuania, and finally settling in the United States in 1924. He founded the Mordkin Ballet in 1926. His company included such distinguished artists as Hilda Butsova, Felia Doubrovska, Pierre Vladimiroff, and Nicholas Zvereff. But after a European tour, the company disbanded in the same year. From among his students in America, he formed a new Mordkin Ballet in 1937, now American Ballet Theatre. His student, Lucia Chase, helped to initially finance the company and after the first season, she took over the management from Mordkin.

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.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vera Trefilova Passed Away July 11, 1943

Vera Trefilova was born in Vladikavkaz, Russia on October 8, 1875. She studied at the Imperial Ballet School and graduated in 1894. She joined the Mariinsky Theatre in 1894 and was promoted to soloist in 1901. Vera became prima ballerina in 1906 at the Maryinsky, known for her 32 fouettés. She created roles in Lev Ivanov's Acis and Galatea (1896), N. and S. Legat's The Fairy Doll (1903), N. Legat's The Blood-Red Flower (1907), and Mikhail Fokine's The Night of Terpsichore (1907). She was triumphant as Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, but resigned in 1910 due to a rivalry with ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska.

In 1917 Vera left Russia during the revolution and opened a school in Paris. In 192,1 Diaghilev invited her to dance Princess Aurora in the London performances of his Ballets Russes’ Sleeping Princess, she alternated the role with Olga Spessivtseva. She danced Odette-Odile with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1924 when she was almost 50 years old, but she still amazed the audience.

She gave her final performance at His Majesty's Theatre in London in 1926. She was married to the dance critic Valerian Svetlov. Vera passed away in Paris July 11, 1943.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jean Cocteau's B-day 7/5/1889 - Ballets Russes Artist

Jean Cocteau was born in Maisons-Laffitte, a small village near Paris. Cocteau was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, playwright and filmmaker. At the age of fifteen, Cocteau left home. During the Great War, he served in the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. This was the period in which he met the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, artist Pablo Picasso, and numerous other writers and artists with whom he later collaborated.

Diaghilev challenged Cocteau to write a scenario for the ballet which resulted in Parade and was produced by Diaghilev, designed by Pablo Picasso, and composed by Erik Satie in 1917. Jean Cocteau published articles, interviewed its principal dancers, and created posters that featured the dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina. Between 1912 and 1927, Cocteau provided libretti or scenarios for the ballets Le Dieu Bleu, Parade, Le Train Bleu, and the opera Oedipus Rex. Jean Cocteau and Serge Diaghilev on opening night of Le Train Bleu, June 20, 1924.

The Russian ballet-master Diaghilev challenged Cocteau to write a scenario for the ballet which resulted in Parade and was produced by Diaghilev, designed by Pablo Picasso, and composed by Erik Satie in 1917. After his friend and fellow poet Radiguet's sudden death in 1923, he left Paris with Diaghilev for a performance of Les Noces (The Wedding) by the Ballets Russes at Monte Carlo.