Le Spectre De La Rose is a ballet in one act (choreographic tableau) about a young girl who dreams of dancing with the spirit of a souvenir rose from her first ball.
Jean-Louise Vaudoyer based the ballet story on a verse by Theophile Gautier.
The Le Spectre De La Rose Ballet was originally choreographed by Michel Fokine to music by Carl Marie von Weber’s piano piece Aufforderung Zum Tanz. (Invitation to the Dance), which was orchestrated by Hector Berlioz.
The original sets and costumes were designed by Leon Bakst.
Le Spectre De La Rose Ballet was first presented on the 19th of April 1911 at the Theatre de Monte Carlo by Ballets Russes.
The ballet was a huge success, and it especially became famous for the spectacular leap that Nijinsky made through a window at the end of the ballet. At the time critics praised this seemingly superhuman feat.
Unfortunately today we have no way of knowing just how high Nijinsky did in fact jump. It is possible that it was no higher than many dancers who have followed him in the role over the years, but the effect that he created through the quality of his elevation was immense and unforgettable.
When choreographer Mikhail Fokine was working on the storyline for Le Spectre De La Rose, there was little to suggest that the ten-minute ballet was destined for fame. Nijinsky’s sister, who was also a great choreographer in her own right, felt disappointed when watching rehearsals at the mundane looking enchainements without any innovation. However as the rehearsals progressed, it became increasingly apparent that Nijinsky’s instinctive and total understanding of the role would illuminate the ballet in an extraordinary way.
The first Le Spectre de la Rose was not acclaimed exclusively for Nijinsky’s performance, but also the interaction of the dancer with his ballerina, the serene and beautiful Tamara Karsavina, who ignited the richly romantic aura of the ballet. Karsavina created a gentle balance to Nijinsky’s bounding, swirling spirit, and both of them shone.
Le Spectre de la Rose has been revived regularly by many ballet companies in all parts of the world and remains a challenge in which dancers of each new generation continue to set their sights upon.
Le Spectre De La Rose Ballet Story
The story unfolds in a young girl’s bedroom, painted in white with its windows open to the summer night. The girl has just returned from her first ball holding a rose to her lips and breathing in its scent.
Dreamily, she removes her cloak and sinks into a chair and falls asleep to dream of the ball.
Suddenly a spirit, half-youth, half-rose, floats into the room through the open window. Like a petal, blown in by the wind, he barely touches the floor as he dances. As he dances he bends over the sleeping girl and draws her into the dance.
But the dream cannot last and he leads her back to her chair, brushes her lightly with his lips, and is gone.
Her eyes open, and she stoops to retrieve the rose whose scent recalls her dream.
This is one of the only resources that I could find today, and believe it or not only on VHS. Really strange.
This composition in the style of the romantic ballet illustrates exactly Fokine’s contention that the technique of the classical ballet should be used only where it is appropriate.
Le Spectre de la Rose is a classic pas de deux with the dancing used in leaps and bounds to evoke an ethereal being, the spirit of the rose, rather than to display an extraordinary technique.
The arm positions used in this ballet are far from the ‘correct’ port de bras arms used in ballet as they are meant to be alive and speak and sing, and not just execute positions. So even though the legs are purely classical the dance style suggests the product of a young girl’s romantic imagination.
Music was written by Schumann and orchestration was done by Rimsky-Korsakov.
Scenery and Costumes were done by Leon Bakst.
Le Carnaval ballet was first performed after three spontaneous rehearsals as a charity performance in the Pavlov Hall in St Petersburg on the 20th of February 1910 by the Ballets Russes, then again in Western Europe at the Theater des Westens in Berlin on the 20th of May 1910.
On 14 September 1933, the ballet was revived again in London by the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo (staged by Woizikovsky) for Alexandra Danilova (appearing as Columbine).
In 1937, it was staged by the Vic-Wells Ballet with Margot Fonteyn dancing the role of “Columbine
This ballet has no real plot or storyline, it is merely a series of light, humorous, and joyous incidents combined with some moments of poignancy and an undercurrent of satire.
Le Carnaval The Ballet
Waltzers and Philistines
The Ballet Story:
The scene takes place in the ant-chamber of a ballroom and its only furniture is two small striped settees.
Columbine, Harlquin, Pantalon, the wistful Peirrot, and other characters from Commedia Dell’arte, intrigue, frolic and suffer with the characters of Schumann’s youthful imagination in a succession of dances and situations linked by the antics of Harlequin.
Le Carnaval had no great success with the Parisian public who saw it a month after Berlin in 1910.
Le Carnaval became beloved elsewhere and is recognized as one of Fokine’s more important works.
It is another exercise in his romantic revival, another restoration of the male dancer through the roles of Harlequin, Pierrot and Pantalon, first danced respectively by Nijinsky, Bolm and Cecchetti (with Karsavina as Columbine). Le Carnaval is another ballet of contrasting moods evoked through dances which extend the range and forms of the pas de deux, pas de trois and pas seul which it uses.
The elusive combination of gaiety, sadness and precise timing required for the total effect is extremely difficult to achieve and the main reason why satisfactory performances of this ballet have very rarely been seen since the end of the Diaghilev Ballet.
Why Don’t We See This Ballet Much Anymore?
Le Carnaval seems to have been the most delicate, most exquisite ballet Michel Fokine ever created, as well as the most difficult to pinpoint.
As was the case with many of his works, the roles depended to a large degree upon the talents of the original performers, and if one looks at just the steps (except for the one Harlequin solo) they are almost simplistic. It was the infusion of lightness, gaiety, coyness, and self-absorption, combined with an underlying sadness, all of which must be contributed by the dancers themselves. That resulted in what most critics of the time regarded as a most effective adaptation of Schumann’s music and characters.
Recent attempts to reconstruct the work in England, Sweden, and the United States have had varying degrees of success. This is because the roles must be created from within each individual performer, not from externally imposed steps or gestures. They require someone like Fokine himself to elicit this from the dancers, which is unfortunately an almost impossible task for our more modern choreographers.
Mathilde Kschessinska was born in St. Petersburg Ligovo, near Peterhof in the of August 1872.
She was the daughter of a well-known dancer of Polish origin, Feliks Krzesiński. Her father and her brother were both dancers in St. Petersburg.
Mathilde Kschessinska graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in 1890 and five years later was filling all the leading roles in the repertory.
Mathilde Kschessinska made her début in a pas de deux from La Fille Mal Gardée during a graduation performance in 1890 attended by Emperor Alexander IIIand the rest of the Imperial family, including the future Nicholas II. At the post-performance supper, the emperor sought out the young Kschessinskaya and told her to “…be the glory and adornment of our ballet.”
Small, dark, vivacious and endowed with a prodigious technique, she was the first native-born dancer to challenge the supremacy of the then reigning Italian virtuoso ballerinas and she was the first Russian ballerina to execute the famous 32 fouettes, introduced by Pierina Legnani in Swan Lake.
Her triumphs were scored in ballets like Le Talisman, Esmeralda, Fiammetta, and La Fille de Pharaon. These ballets were monumental mainstays of the later 19th-century repertoire, now all but forgotten.
It is related that when she appeared in Western Europe with Nijinsky in Swan Lake under the aegis of Diaghilev, her success was such that her celebrated partner, in an access of rage and jealousy, tore his costume to shreds!
She was a mistress of the future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia prior to his marriage, and later in the wife of his cousin Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia. Because of this, she enjoyed protection in high places and she was a person to be wary of.
In 1902, she gave birth to a son, Vladimir he was later titled H.S.H. Prince Romanovsky-Krasinsky, but said that he never knew for sure who his father was.
Innumerable stories are told of her flouting of authority with impunity and her indulgence in vengeful caprice – faced with a fine for having worn a dress of her own devising at a performance instead of the regulation costume provided by the theatre, she secured the forced resignation of the then director of the Imperial Theatres, Prince Volkonsky, an enlightened, artistic and intelligent man, who assisted the great choreographer – reformer Fokine’s first steps.
On the other hand, Tamara Karsavina has told us how, at the start of her career, the older dancer took her younger colleague under her wing, knowing full well, as she generously admitted in after years when the younger dancer now world-famous was expressing her gratitude for that early protection, that she was aiding a talent as great as her own, which might one day eclipse hers.
She said, “I did nothing but smoothe your path; your beauty and talent would have carried you to success without my aid.”
In 1917, on the outbreak of the revolution, Kschessinska left Russia and settled in Paris, where she opened a school of dancing.
Practically all the famous names of the next generation have passed through her capable hands at one time or another.
In 1960, she published an autobiography entitled Souvenirs de la Kschessinska (published in English as Dancing in St. Petersburg: The Memoirs of Kschessinska).
I always love to learn about famous dancers of our past as these are the people who shaped dance for the future. today I would like to focus on Carlotta Grisi.
Who Was Carlotta Grisi?
Carlotta Grisi was born in Visinada as Caronne Adele Josephine Marie Grisi on the 28th of June 1819 in Italy.
She studied with ballet master Guillet in Milan and graduated to the corps-de-ballet at La Scala in 1829.
While she was dancing in Naples in 1833, thine just in her early teens, she met the fabulous Jules Perrot who, though of insignificant physique and almost humpbacked, was the greatest male dancer of his age, and certainly the greatest since Auguste Vestris, who was one of the greatest of all time.
Poems have been written in praise of Perrot’s grace, despite his unprepossessing appearance, of his ability as a mine, too, and of his beautifully proportioned legs in contrast to his tenor’s’ torso.
He was a talented choreographer, in whose ballets the leading dancers of the day did not scorn to appear.
The youthful Carlotta became pupil and mistress of this phenomenon.
She also sang but was more famous for her dancing.
She subsequently starred all over Europe, making her debut at the Paris Opera in the ballet divertissement in Donizetti’s La Favorite in 1841, in which she was partnered by Lucien Petipa, brother of Marius Petipa, who was the most celebrated choreographer of the 19th century.
Carlotta Grisi was here seen by, and later became acquainted with, the famous French poet and critic, Theophile Gautier, whose great love and inspiration she was to become and who has left us glowing descriptions of her charms both as an artist and woman.
Other ballets in which Carlotta Grisi appeared whilst in Paris included La Jolie fille de Gand (1842), La Peri (1843), Esmeralda (1844) and Paquita and Le Diable a quatre (1845), in the latter year journeying, also to London to take part in the celebrated Pas de quatre.
Carlotta Grisi was of medium height, with auburn hair and violet eyes.
Dance historian Lillian Moore wrote “In Grisi were united all the best attributes of the other outstanding ballerinas of the romantic period: the buoyant elevation of Taglioni, the technical virtuosity and mimic powers of Elssler, and the joyous, exuberant facility of Cerrito. If she could not claim to surpass her peers in any one aspect of her art, Grisi outstripped them all in versatility.
She is most famous for the role which she created of Giselle, the peasant girl who dies for love in Act 1 of the ballet which bears her name and in Act 2 rises wraithlike from the grave to save the lover who has betrayed her from the clutches of the baleful Myrthe, Queen of the Wilis.
Grisi’s last performance in the west was in Paul Taglioni’s Les Métamorphoses (aka Satanella, 1849).
In 1850, she joined Perrot in Russia, where he had been appointed ballet master, and she danced Giselle at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre.
The first Giselle in Russia had been danced by Fanny Elssler, and so the initial reaction to Grisi’s interpretation of the role was not that enthusiastic. However, over time the Russians appreciated her talents more. She was Prima Ballerina of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg from 1850 to 1853, working not only with Perrot but also Joseph Mazilier who staged for her La Jolie Fille de Gand and Vert-Vert especially for her.
In 1854, with her daughter, she left Russia for Warsaw, where she intended to continue dancing, but she became pregnant by Prince Léon Radziwill who persuaded her to retire from ballet at the height of her fame.
Grisi gave birth to her second daughter, Léontine Grisi, and at the age of 34 settled in Saint-Jean, Geneva. She died in this district of the town on 20 May 1899 a month before her 80th birthday.
One of the creators of Giselle creators, Théophile Gautier, who was married to Carlotta’s sister Ernestina, described her dancing as having a childlike artlessness, a happy and infectious gaiety. Carlotta Grisi was the cousin of the famous soprano singers, the sisters Giuditta and Giulia Grisi.
Carlotta Grisi’s Greatest Roles
These are the roles she danced that made her famous:
Created the title role of Giselle (Jules Perrot, Jean Coralli and Adolphe Adam. 1841).
Created the dual role of Peri/Leila in the oriental La Péri (Jean Coralli and Friedrich Burgmüller. 1843)
Created the title role in Paquita (Joseph Mazilier and Edouard Deldevez. 1844)
Second ballerina in Pas de Quatre (Jules Perrot and Cesare Pugni. 1845)
Created the role of Mazourka in Le Diable à Quatre (Joseph Mazilier and Adolphe Adam. 1845)
The Anna Pavlova Biography proves to be both interesting and compelling. She led a short life but achieved so much.
She also managed to accomplish all her dreams, something most people don’t manage to do in a lifetime.
Anna Pavlova The Ballerina
Anna Pavlova was born in 1881 just outside St. Petersburg. She saw a performance of The Sleeping Beauty as a child by the Maryinsky ballet troupe as a Xmas Treat and resolved that someday she herself would be a Princess Aurora.
She had poor turnout and weak feet, along with a spindly body, which made a ballet career look impossible for her, so it took a few years before the Imperial School of the Maryinsky Ballet accepted her into their program.
She was slender and graceful. She had a small head with dark hair parted in the centre and drawn down flat over the ears to frame an oval face perched on a swan-like neck. She had long and expressive legs terminating in a pair of exquisitely arched insteps. She was endowed with intense personal magnetism and could compel the adoration of audiences worldwide. She also managed to get a slavish devotion from every member of her troupe.
Anna Pavlova took advantage of her strong points, which were extension, ballon, a pliable torso, expressiveness, a feminine delicacy, and she worked like a trojan. She also had the best teachers, including Enrico Cecchetti, Nicholas Legat, Pavel Gerdt and Christian Johansson.
She excelled in the classical repertory at the Imperial Theater, and Petipa even reworked Giselle to showcase her Romantic qualities.
But it was the choreography of Mikhail Fokine that immortalized her in 1905. The Dying Swan, originally, The Swan, was a solo depicting the last moments in the life of a swan. It was not a difficult dance technically, but Pavlova’s genius transcended the sentimental melodrama of the piece and her emotional style thrilled audiences.
This became her signature ballet. Here is a tribute to Pavlova below.
Anna Pavlova performed with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in Paris in 1909. She had little sympathy with Diaghilev’s aims and ideals, and these to autocratic temperaments could hardly agree on anything.
Diaghilev believed in the supremacy of art and Pavlova in that of her own art.
Anna wished to shine alone. Music for her was merely an accompaniment. If she struck a firm balance in a pose, she would finish an enchainment two bars late if need be and woe betide the poor orchestra.
Funnily this peculiarity of hers was shared by the ill-fated Olga Spessiftseva, of gazelle-like beauty, who also resembled her uncannily in physical make-up, save that Spessiftseva hardly seemed to be aware even that she was at odds with the music!
After the 1913 season, Pavlova resigned from the Maryinsky and formed her own company which she took abroad, spending the war years from 1914 to 1918 in America.
Her company was no more than adequate and she stood literally head and shoulders above any member of it. Her ballets were trite, her music and decors undistinguished when not bad, but she was always willing to appear in places where audiences had never seen a ballet.
In her ceaseless touring, she influenced and entranced millions, filling countless little girls with the idea of becoming dancers and countless prospective ‘ballet-mothers’ with the ambition of making them so.
She then toured the globe for nearly two decades and became ballet’s most influential ambassador by inspiring balletomania thousands of miles away from her native Russia. Frederick Ashton saw her in Peru and decided to devote his life to ballet.
Pavlova was famous for roles that required beautiful lines and fluid movements, like flowers, dragonflies and swans.
She was the most famous ballerina of her time and she chose not to have an operation that would save her life because it would have meant giving up dancing.
Constant touring under far from ideal conditions had undermined her constitution and in 1931, on the eve of yet another exhausting tour she caught a cold.
She was at least spared years of dissatisfaction and decline, for her powers were already on the wane.
Except for those rare moments when a spark of the old genius would momentarily ignite, for those who had known her in her glorious prime, it had become a saddening experience to watch her dance. But such was the hypnotic power she exercised over her audiences and colleagues.
Her last words before she died of pleurisy in 1931 were “prepare my swan costume.”
Anna Pavlova Biography
If you would like to read up more on the story of Anna Pavlova, here is a beautiful book you can purchase about her life story. It is one of the best ballet history books on the market today.
Like celebrities of today, she toured the world, endorsed beauty products and department stores, appeared in fashion magazines, and even made a Hollywood movie.
But her passion was always ballet, which she sought to bring to as wide an audience as possible.
Many of the works she brought with her from Russia are regarded as the foundation of today’s classical ballet repertoire. This book offers an intimate look at the legendary ballerina whose name still resonates 80 years after her death.
This richly illustrated book has now been revised to include an entirely new chapter on Pavlova’s tours.
If you have anything to add to this Anna Pavlova Biography, please feel free by commenting below.
Olga Preobrajenska was born in St. Petersburg on January 21, 1871. I have yet to find out what her real surname is hence the two different ways of spelling it in the title of this page. I have a feeling the one way is the Russian way and the other the English way.
Her mother died shortly after her birth and her father took very little interest in her after that.
Even though she came from a family that had no connections whatsoever with the ballet or any of the other arts, Olga Preobrajenska decided early in life that she was going to be a dancer when she grew up.
Olga Preobrajenska The Dancer
She started lessons with Leopoldina Lozenskaya, who was a former dancer at the Mariinsky Theater.
After numerous rejections, by the age of ten, she was finally accepted into the St. Petersburg Theatre School.
She did her intermediate under Lev Ivanov, Christian Johansson and her advanced with the famed choreographer Marius Petipa.
Olga Preobrazenska had limited possibilities as a ballet dancer, as she was short, plain, had mild scoliosis and a hyperextended knee.
She didn’t give up easily though and over the years with continuous self-discipline and hard work, she overcame her shortcomings and achieved great success as a pupil.
Upon graduation in 1889 she immediately entered the Maryinsky Company for which the theatre school existed.
At first, Olga Preobrajenska was relegated to the back row of the corps de ballet with no hope of becoming a soloist. Nevertheless, she achieved this distinction by 1896 and was elevated to the rank of a ballerina by 1900.
Olga enjoyed fame and popularity to equal that of Mathilde Kschessinska who was the greatest Russian ballerina of the time.
She performed a broad and varied range of roles, including almost all of those in ballets choreographed by Marius Petipa, Ivanov, and Legat. She was also the first to perform some of these parts like:
Anne in Petipa’s Barbe-Bleu (Blue Beard)
Pierette in Petipa’s Les Millions d’Ariequin (Harlequinade, 1900)
Henriette in Raymonda (1898)
Pavel in Gerdt’s Javotte (1902)
Cleopatra’s slave in Fokine’s Une Nuit d’Egypte (A night in Egypt, 1908)
She also danced in Fokine’s Chopiniana (1908; 1909), and as late as 1915 he staged Tchaikovsky’s Romance for her when she was 44.
Olga remained a leading dancer there for nearly thirty years. Despite her poor figure and lack of allure, Preobrazhenska was a hard worker and through sheer determination, her career advanced steadily.
She was gifted with a lively personality, personal charm, and a dazzling smile which she conveyed easily across the footlights, and she became very popular with the St. Petersburg audiences.
She was never satisfied with her art and even though she was a mature and respected dancer, Olga Preobrazhenska took lessons from Enrico Cecchetti and Nicolai Legat, as well as Caterina Beretta in Milan, Joseph Hansen in Paris and Katti Lanner in London.
She also studied music (piano) and took voice lessons.
In 1895, Preobrazhensak made her first trip abroad touring for the Mariinsky in the company of Matilda Kshesinskaia and her brother Joseph Kshesinsky. She appeared in Dresden in Monte Carlo and at La Scala in Malan (1904) and in Paris in 1909.
In 1910 she danced a shortened version of Swan Lake in London for the first time and in 1912 toured in South America.
During the First World War, she trained as a nurse and went on to work in several hospitals in order to learn as much as possible about her new craft. She served in various military hospitals and conducted a small hospital in the courtyard of her home, all the while continuing to teach her classes in ballet under increasingly difficult conditions.
She taught at the St Petersburg Theater School from time to time and after the Russian Revolutions of March and November 1917, she continued with her career by joining the new School of Russian Ballet which was newly founded by Akim Volynsky.
Here the newest and most innovative ballet techniques were being taught and further developed. She served as a teacher until 1921. She worked training the greats like Agrippina Vaganova, Alexandra Danilova, Olga Mungalova, Vera Volkova and even Vaganova who went on to become the greatest dance teacher in the Soviet Union and the founder of Soviet Ballet.
Olga Preobrajenska found the destruction of the old world of Imperial Russia of which the ballet had been so much a part of very difficult to cope with and in February 1921 she left Russia for Finland.
After a few gala performances in Riga, Latvia (which was no longer a part of Russia), she went to Berlin where she danced wherever she could get an engagement.
She wrote to La Scala in Milan where she had performed four times in the past and received an invitation to choreograph there for an entire opera season. After this, she realized that Berlin had nothing to offer her and she left for France shortly after her return from Milan.
Olga Preobrazhenska The Teacher
In 1923 she settled in Paris and opened a private school at the Studio Wacker. As her fame spread, she became one of the most distinguished and sought after teachers in Europe until her retirement in 1960 at the age of 89.
As a dancer, Olga Preobrazhenska was admired for her precision and the perfection of her technique, as well as her soaring leaps. She had wonderful musicality and was a natural actress. She had a gift for improvisation.
Here is a list of the roles that brought out the best in Preobrazhenska:
She was never considered much of a success as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake or as Gizelle.
However, it was as a teacher that she left her mark on the world of classical dance and she devoted herself to passing on the traditions of the Russian Ballet.
She had an ability to detect and weed out the defects in her pupil’s work that made her a born mistress of ballet instructions.
She was a firm believer in Cecchetti’s code that ballet dancing must be mastered in the classroom first and could not be mastered later on the stage.
With her authority and rigid discipline, she gave her pupils an extraordinary command of technique. When the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo was formed in 1930, most of the dancers were former pupils of Peobrazhenska’s including its earliest two stars Tamara Toumanova and Irina Baronova.
Other dancers who studied under her or who came to take classes with her in both St Petersburg and Paris included Margot Fonteyn, Hugh Laing, Vladimir Skouratoff, Mialord Miskovitch, Ludmilla Tcherina, Nina Verchinina, Igor Youskevitch as well as company directors and other well-known teachers.
She was an intensely private person and never married. She tended to keep people at a distance.
Her closest friend was her former pupil and later assistant Elvira Rone, who especially in her later years managed her studio for her.
She never quite accepted that her career as a dancer was over and suffered from recurrent depression over the years. She could be abrupt to the point of rudeness, yet she was kind and generous and often taught impoverished children for free. She was a great lover of animals and birds.
In her last years, she was ill and living in poverty and she depended very much upon the charity of Toumanova. She died in a nursing home in Sainte-Mande, France on the 27th of December 1962, just a few weeks away from her 92nd birthday.
Marie Petipa was the daughter of famous choreographer Marius Petipa, but she has quite a tragic story behind her.
Marie Mariusovna Petipa was born on the 29th of October 1857 in St. Petersburg.
She studied classical ballet under her father Marius Petipa. Her mother was Maria Petipa.
She made her debut at the Mariinsky Theater in 1875 in a ballet called Le Dahlia Bleu and her dancing career, mainly in the character dance repertoire lasted until 1907, but she did perform on rare occasions through until 1911.
At the height of her career, Marie Petipa was one of the most known ballerinas in St. Petersburg and many portraits were drawn by well-known artists at the time.
I always enjoy researching and finding out the history of dance and Marius Petipa (1818 – 1910) and The Imperial Russian Ballet come up so often in my reading that I thought that it only fitting to write a bit about him.
Marius Petipa is the colossus of nineteenth-century ballet.
Other choreographers may well have rivaled him for genius, or have had as great an influence on the art of ballet, but none rivaled him for productivity and none achieved the creation of a monument so grand or influential as the Imperial Russian Ballet, of which he was an effective master of more than forty years.
The Imperial Russian Ballet was created out of the combination of French style, traditional in Russia, with newly imported Italian technique which was expressed through Russian bodies and Russian temperament.
The result was a new national school of ballet which remains a yardstick for dancers today.
The birth of this school is Marius Petipa’s principal legacy.
The Life Of Marius Petipa In A Nutshell
Victor Marius Alphonse Petipa was born into a family of dancers on the 11th of March 1818 in Marseille where his father was at that time ballet master.
Like many dance families of the day, the Petipas’ were ever on the move.
By the time he was three years old, he was in Brussels with his mother, father, older brother Lucien and older sister Victoria.
They stayed in Brussels until 1931. Marius started dancing lessons with his father at the age of seven and first appeared on stage at the age of nine. He didn’t enjoy his lessons in the beginning, but over time he learned to love dancing.
Revolutionary activity in 1830 and 1831 drove the family to Antwerp, and then back to Brussels.
After this, they lived in Bordeaux for four years. At the age of sixteen, Marius launched out on his own, obtaining work in Nantes where he was called upon to compose a few short ballets.
When he broke his leg, he returned to his family and in 1839 they all set out for New York.
Their stay in New York was short and they staged some ballets before a manager absconded with their funds. The Petipas’ then returned to Europe.
Lucien was already a premier danseur at the Paris Opera, and Marius joined the classes given by eighty-year-old August Vestris. He also partnered Carlotta Grisi at a benefit gala, and then was offered a post as premier danseur at Bordeaux where he danced in Gizelle, La Peri, and La Fille Mal Gardee, as well as staging four ballets of his own.
A year later he went to the Royal Theater in Madrid and created four more ballets as well as danced leading roles for four more years.
In 1846, he began a love affair with the wife of the Marquis de Chateaubriand, a prominent member of the French Embassy. Learning of the affair, the Marquis challenged Petipa to a duel. Rather than keep his fateful appointment, Petipa quickly left Spain, never to return.
In 1847 Marius seduced yet another man’s wife, and the husband called for a duel, yet again. Duels were banned, and the threat of court repercussions loomed over Marius, so the family decided it was best for him to leave France. Marius’ brother, Lucien was familiar with working in Russia and sent an inquiry to Antoine Titus in St. Petersburg.
So, Marius Petipa found himself in St. Petersburg late in the same year. And thus began his incredible career ascent to becoming one of the most influential choreographers in history.
His experience as a dancer and choreographer stood him in good stead. In his first season, he staged three ballets: Paquita, Satanella and La Peri for himself and principal ballerina, Andreyanova, as well as dancing Albrecht in Gizelle.
Marius incidentally was very much under the shadow of his more famous brother Lucien, who was one of the great dancers of the Romantic Age and the first Albrecht.
Any hope of his further developing as a choreographer was killed by the arrival in St. Petersburg of Jules Perrot, who remained as ballet master until 1859.
During this time Petipa danced leading roles, but his choreographic output amounted to a few brief works, staged principally for his first wife, Marie Surovschikova, whom he married in 1854.
Even with Perrot’s departure, Petipa was not to be given a real chance to stage ballets, as Arthur St-Leon was appointed, an accomplished and prolific choreographer, whose ballets were often described as protracted divertissements. He could invent charming solos and duets, but he was less accomplished at the dramatic ensembles which so distinguished the work of Perrot.
Despite St-Leon’s attempts to prevent Petipa from being entrusted with any creative work, the director of the Imperial Theater offered him a ballet in 1861. The fact that the work was to star the fading technical abilities of the Italian guest ballerina, Carolina Rosati, who was past her prime, may have accounted for Petipa’s being given what was in effect, a very difficult task.
Realizing what an important chance was being offered to him, and with a clear sense of what was popular at the time (in this case the archaeological excavations in Egypt), he went to Paris to consult Vernoy de St Georges, the most accomplished ballet librettist of the time, and together they concocted an intrigue of massive complication, based upon Gautier’s Le Roman de la Momie.
On his return to Petersburg, Petipa was told that the ballet had to be completed within six weeks in time for Rosati’s benefit performance. La Fille du Pharaon was a huge success, and Petipa’s reputation was made.
The work delighted audiences for the next forty years. Petipa was a genius and his genius lay not only in his sheer ability to make dances but in his power to absorb ideas and accept influences from other choreographers.
The next forty years present the picture of a career that was filled with disappointments as well as triumphs. From 1862 to 1869 when St-Leon left, Petipa labored as second ballet master, producing almost alternately both flops and successes.
After St-Leon left he was named chief ballet master, responsible for the imperial theaters in St Petersburg and Moscow and the imperial schools. His duty was to produce a new ballet at the beginning of every season. This he did, offering his audiences the sort of grand and complicated productions which had first won him fame.
Yet he was not happy turning out spectacle after spectacle, according to August Bournonville, who visited St Petersburg in 1874 and commented on the hollow magnificence of these dance extravaganzas. Petipa agreed but pointed out that the public expected them and were not to be weaned from them.
The last two great works of Petipa’s career were The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda, which we still see companies performing today. He ended up retiring after outliving his career and having endless arguments with both the management and the dancers.
Soon after Petipa retired, the Imperial Ballet Company left without a major choreographer went into decline from which it was only saved by the Revolution.
Petipa made the Imperial Ballet great at a time when ballet in the rest of the world was sunk into the depths from which it was soon to be rescued by the next generation led by Diaghilev and Fokine.
With an audience bent on spectacle and splendor, he provided all the requisite magnificence and technical dazzle.
He had at times sacrificed his own tastes to those of his audience and he could produce magnificent ballets to order.
He insisted, above all, on the supremacy of dancing, and under his rule, the imperial schools produced and went on producing many of the finest artists of their time, whom the new Russian school made supreme. He constantly extended the range of his dancers, and at the same time was extending his own powers.
Some Of The Ballets That Petipa Created
Marius Petipa created over fifty ballets, some of which have survived in versions either faithful to, inspired by, or reconstructed from the original.
Among these works, he is most noted for the following:
I grew up watching and admiring Natalia Bessmertnova and her dancing, so I thought it would only be fitting to write a post about this bewitching Russian ballerina.
Here are some of the productions that she has been recorded doing. Luckily there is a lot of footage of her dancing, unlike the earlier Russian Ballerina’s. If you are interested in owning any of her performances, simply click on one of the pictures below.
Russian ballet dancing and ballet dancing worldwide certainly owes a lot to Natalia Bessmertnova. Here is some of this famous ballerina’s history.
Natalia was born on the 19th of July 1941 in Moscow. At that time Russia was deep in the war against Nazi Germany, and 1941 was a particularly hard year. Natalia was taken to the safety of Leninabad in Central Asia soon after she was born, while her father had to serve as a doctor for the soldiers of war.
The family was reunited shortly before the end of the war and her childhood was spent in Moscow, where she grew up in a secure and stable environment. She had a lot of affection and attention as a child. Even as her exceptional ballet dancing talents became obvious, her parents brought her up as normally as they could.
She was a helpful, hard-working, considerate child and helped tremendously when her sister Tatiana was born in 1947.
Natalia’s ballet dancing bordered on compulsion, and she would dance to any music for hours on end. Eventually, Natalia’s parents realized that she was born to dance and her mother took her for lessons at the city’s Young Pioneer Palace, which was a cultural club for children that was found in every Soviet City. The classes were run by Helena Rosse who was an ex-ballerina and experienced teacher. She was a strict teacher and a stickler for punctuality, and no mistake would escape her watchful eye. She advised Natalia’s parents to let her audition for the Moscow Ballet School. Out of 300 applicants, Natalia alone was admitted without reservations.
Among the school’s teachers of classical dance, Maria Kozhukhova and Sophia Golovkina played a significant part in the development of Natalia Bessmertnova’s dancing. Between the two of them, they laid the groundwork for her virtuoso technique.
Natalia Bessmertnova made her debut on the Bolshoi stage on the 20th of June 1961 when she was still a student. She danced in the Seventh Waltz in Chopiniana, as she was forced to take somebody else’s part at the last minute, and had to come on stage without having rehearsed her part. She still managed to dance with full abandon and youthful enthusiasm and succeeded in winning the admiration of the audience, thus accelerating her career immediately.
She graduated from the Moscow Ballet School with an almost unheard of Grade A1 and was immediately accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet Company. She had just turned twenty and her steep rise to stardom had now officially begun.
Natalia Bessmertnova was a ballerina known for her lightness, delicacy, and romantic style. She was known for her regality on stage and her modesty off of it.
Her debut performance with Bolshoi Ballet was in “Chopiniana.“ which was a remake of Les Sylphides. Her first stage partner was Mikhail Lavrovsky. Bessmertnova had a successful career performing in “Spartacus,“ “Legend of Love,“ “The Golden Age,“ and “Swan Lake.“ She was especially noted for her lyric, mysterious, and beautiful performance in “Giselle“ in 1969.
Natalia Bessmertnova shot to international fame with her stellar performances in the Paris Opera productions of two ballets by Sergei Prokofiev, Ivan the Terrible (1976), and Romeo and Juliet (1978). Bessmertnova gave memorable performances as Rita in the 1982 production of “The Golden Age” ballet by Dmitri Shostakovich, and as Raymonda in Grigorovich’s 1984 version of Raymonda by Aleksandr Glazunov, which you can see her dancing in the video above.
In the course of her stage career lasting 35 years, Natalia Bessmertnova gave over three thousand stage performances and won critical acclaim for her great sense of style and authority.
In 1970 she was awarded The Anna Pavlova Prize in Paris and she was designated Peoples Actress of the USSR (1976). She also received numerous decorations and awards from the Soviet State including State Prize of the USSR (1977), and Lenin Prize (1986).
Natalia Bessmertnova was married to choreographer Yuri Grigorovich, and the couple served on the juries of international ballet competitions. In 1995 the couple left the Bolshoi Theater after a strike and formed The Grigorovich Ballet troupe based in Krasnodar, Russia.
From 1995 to 2005 she was touring with Grigorovich Ballet, and also taught ballet classes. Bessmertnova died of cancer on February 19, 2008, in a Moscow clinic, and was laid to rest in Moscow, Russia.
Most people believe that these six magnificent and famous Russian Ballet Dancers have marked the progress of Russian Ballet Dancing during the twentieth century.
Each of these famous Russian Ballet Dancers has in some way laid the groundwork for the further development of the art of ballet dancing worldwide.
Each of these Russian ballerina’s has in her own way expressed her own personality, rather than conforming to the narrow technical professional sphere that was expected of them.
Famous Russian Ballet Dancers
Anna Pavlova who indeed was legendary holds a high place amongst these Russian ballerinas. Although she was trained in the strict style of the St Petersburg ballet, she lent great emotional freedom to ballet dancing and in turn made ballet dancing more expressive. Pavlova showed the world that there were different ways of interpreting different dance pieces.
Olga Spesivtseva danced in Russia for only a few years before she moved abroad in 1924. She danced in a time when there were great debates about the choreography and the necessity of ballet for the new Soviet audiences.
She led the way as a prima ballerina for the Maryinsky Theatre and contributed towards the preservation of the rich classical heritage and traditions. She created beauty amongst the violence and destruction of the times. She was a great tragic ballerina, and she revived the romantic styles of ballet.
Marina Semenova joined the Kirov as it is known today in 1925 and introduced new qualities into classical ballet dancing.
She seemed to have endless energy and broad and free movements in her dancing.
Semenova’s dancing was forceful and joyful but still remained faithful to the classical style.
Her style demonstrated that there were unlimited possibilities for the classical style, even with the new social situation.
Galina Ulanovabrought success to the ballet theatre in the 1930’s and 1940’s with her brilliant performances. She brought remarkable psychological precision and emotions to all the parts that she danced.
“Great book this woman was a legend in her lifetime and best of all she was a genius. She was the greatest ballerina of the 20th century,’. ‘Her life and the art of dance to which she has given her soul has become part of Russian and world culture. Ulanova has always been for us the symbol of conscience, honor, and dignity. She was a true artist.”
This book all about the life of Galina Ulanova is available for purchase online. Simply click on the book to find out more.
Maya Plisetskaya was daring and defiant and she brought with her a radical change in public sentiments during the 1950s and 1960s.
She had unique natural endowments and although she remained loyal to the traditions of classical ballet, she never limited herself and brought about free thinking as the essential principles for a creative individual.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Natalia Bessmertnova marked the new era in classical ballet dancing.
This photograph to the left originates from the International Magazine Services photo archive of famous Russian ballet dancers.
IMS was an editorial photo archive in Scandinavia founded in 1948 but evolved from older archives that have images in the collection too.
The archive is in great condition and been in storage for a long time and the images in the collection are now being sold off one by one.
The images in this archive were distributed in only 10-15 copies around the world at the time and many copies have been lost or damaged during this time.
Each copy from the collection is therefore very rare and unique. These kind of rare images are not only a great thing to own but also a great investment.
Own a piece of history with this great photography memorabilia by clicking on the photograph above. By purchasing a photo from IMXPIX Images, copyright does not transfer. We are selling these photos as collectibles only and no copyright is implied.
Bessmertnova absorbed Spesivtseva’s romanticism, Pavlova’s musical expressiveness, Semenova’s broad dancing and the lyricism of Ulanova.
Natalia Bessmertnova has brought the art of ballet dancing to a culmination. Her dancing stands out even against her predecessors, for its individuality and originality.