Natalia Bessmertnova – Famous Russian Ballerina

Natalia bessmertnova

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 Bessmertnova

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.Natalia bessmertnova

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.

Her fitting obituary can be read here.

Famous Russian Ballet Dancers That Changed Ballet Forever

famous Russian ballet dancers

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

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.

Anna Pavlova was closely followed by Olga Spesivtseva and Marina Semenova.

Olga Spesivtseva

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.famous Russian ballet dancers

Marina Semenova

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 Ulanova

Galina Ulanova brought 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

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.

Natalia Bessmertnova

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.

Tamara Karsavina – Timeless Ballerina

tamara karsavina

Tamara Platonovna Karsavina was born in St. Petersburg on the 10th of March 1885.  She was the daughter of well-known dancer Platon Karsavin and she was lucky enough to study ballet dancing under famous teachers Paul Gerdt and Enrico Cecchetti at the famous Imperial School.

Due to his own bitter experiences, Platon initially refused to allow Karsavina to study ballet, but her mother interceded.

“Mother’s dream was to make a dancer of me,”  Karsavina later wrote. “It is a beautiful career for a woman,” she would say, “and I think the child must have a leaning for the stage; she is fond of dressing up, and always at the mirror.”

tamara karsavinaWithout seeking Platon’s permission, Karsavina’s mother arranged for her to begin taking lessons with a family friend, the retired dancer Vera Joukova.

When Platon learned months later that his daughter had begun dancing lessons, he took the news in his stride, becoming her primary instructor.

Far from receiving preferential treatment, however, Karsavina referred to her father as her “most exacting teacher… and to the tune of his fiddle I exerted myself to the utmost.”

In 1894, after a rigorous examination, Karsavina was accepted at the Imperial Ballet School.

After graduating early from the Imperial School, due to financial constraints, she ended up becoming a principal ballerina with the Imperial Russian Ballet and danced the entire Marius Petipa repertory.

Her most famous roles were Lise in La Fille Mal Gardee, Medora in Le Corsaire and Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse.  She was also the first ballerina to dance the Le Corsaire Pas de Deux in 1915.

She started dancing with Ballet Russes late in 1910 and then she joined up with Diaghilev’s company, where she created major roles in the Firebird (which Anna Pavlova turned down), Petrushka, and Spectre de la Rose among others.

Tamara Karsavina made up a legendary partnership with Nijinski.  She and Anna Pavlova were known to have a bit of rivalry between them, and in one performance the shoulder strap of her costume came loose exposing her.  Pavlova reduced an embarrassed Tamara to tears.

tamara karsavina ballerinaTamara Karsavina was renowned for her beauty, and many artists used her in their portraits.

In 1915 her first marriage to ardent balletomane Vassili Mukhin was dissolved. In 1917 she settled in London and married diplomat Henry James Bruce.

In 1918 after years of war fraught with ever-increasing hardship, she left Russia and came to England which remained her home from then on.

She was one of the founders of the Operatic Association which later became known as the Royal Academy of Dance.

The Royal Academy of Dance is now the worlds largest examining and teaching organization.  She was vice president of the association for over thirty years.

She taught ballet dancing and wrote a lot about the world of ballet.

Her writings include articles on technique for the journal Dancing Times, her autobiography Theatre Street (1930), and the text Classical Ballet: The Flow of Movement (1962).

Amongst her pupils, she taught two famous ballerinas absolute, Dame Alicia Markova, who was the first British dancer to hold the rank of Prima Ballerina, and Dame Margot Fonteyn.  She also taught Mari Bicknell, who was the founder of Cambridge Ballet Workshop.

Tamara Karsavina became recognized as one of the founders of modern British ballet.  She also assisted in the establishment of The Royal Ballet.

Tamara Karsavina was bisexual and although married had a much-documented affair with famous Hollywood socialite and writer Mercedes de Acosta.  Tamara remained friends with Mercedes, even after Mercedes released her book in which she told her life story and her many relationships with famous Hollywood personalities.tamara karsavina

Even as she aged, Tamara Karsavina could still reduce a crowded room to admiring silence merely by the manner in which she made her entrances.

She was greatly underused and neglected by the management of the Royal Ballet and only occasionally assisted with the revivals of the ballets in which she danced.

She coached Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in Spectre de la Rose and in 1959 advised Sir Frederick Ashton when he did the revival of La Fille Mal Gardee.  She taught him the original mimed dialogue for the famous when I am married scene.

Tamara Karsavina was gifted with a perfectly proportioned body, a warm rich personality, and was a dark languorous romantic beauty eyes and feet that spoke to her audiences.

She had high and soft elevation, brilliant beats, swift turns and a noble bearing that was unaffected and modest. It is said that her port-de-bras were lovely beyond belief.

Her ability to completely identify herself with a character can only be compared with those of the great Soviet ballerina Ulanova.

She died on the 26th of May 1978.

You can read more about her extraordinary life here.

Michel Fokine And How He Contributed To Dance

michel fokine

Michel Fokine was born Mikhail Mikhaylovich Fokine on the 23rd of April 1880 in St Petersburg.michel Fokine

If you are wondering who Michel Fokine was, he was a dancer and choreographer that profoundly influenced the 20th-century classical ballet repertoire.

In 1905 he composed The Dying Swan for Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova. He was chief choreographer at Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes from 1909 to 1914 and during this time he created Petrushka, The Firebird and L’Oiseau de Fau.

Michel Fokine And His Life

Fokine was born into a prosperous middle-class family. He was the 17th of 18 children, but only five survived to adulthood.  In 1889 he entered into the Imperial Ballet School at the Mariinsky Theatre. He was talented not only as a dancer but also as a student of music and painting. He began quite early in his life to plan choreography and seek out appropriate music in the school library as well as sketch designs.

He made his debut as a dancer with the Imperial Russian Ballet on his 18th birthday. He graduated in 1898 and achieved the rare distinction of entering the Imperial Ballet directly as a soloist.

He began teaching in 1902 and became the first soloist in 1904. He staged his first ballets the following year – Acis and Galatea for a pupil’s performance and Le Cygne for Anna Pavlova. His first ballet for the Imperial Theatre was Le Pavillon d’Armide in 1907.

He was very deeply influenced by the lofty qualities of the Romantic Ballet Era with its emphasis on expression and his personal passion lead him to museums and galleries to study the works of the past.

He would formulate his ideas before creating his ballets. ‘Dancing should be expressive,’ he wrote in a note submitted to the management of the Imperial Theatres with the scenario of Acis and Galatea.michel Fokine

He believed that works must not degenerate into mere gymnastics and should reflect the feelings of the character portrayed. The movement should fit the time and style of the period. The costumes should not be established ballet style, but be consistent with the plot. The ballet should be uninterrupted by not having separate numbers and not be interrupted with applause and its acknowledgment by the artists. The music had to express the story of the ballet.

The above were some of the principles of the choreographic revolution he effected in the next ten years.

In 1904 he wrote the scenario for his first ballet based on the ancient Greco-Roman – Legend of Daphnis and Chloe. It made very little impact with the directors of the Imperial Theatre and he was not encouraged to produce it. Later he created it for Diaghilev in 1912.

At St Petersburg, he had no power to implement his beliefs so he began to work as a choreographer in 1904 for his pupils. It was Acis et Galatee based on an ancient Sicilian legend.

His enthusiasm for antiquity owed nothing to the free dance ideas from American Dancer Isadora Duncan, although her appearance in Russia in 1905 greatly consolidated his own beliefs. In 1905 he also did his famous solo The Dying Swan for Anna Pavlova.

Fokine was an integral part of the Ballets Russes Paris triumph. Diaghilev was well known for bringing artists together in successful collaboration and with Fokine as the chief choreographer, the link between the dancers Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Adolph Bolm as well as designers Alexandre Benois and Leon Bakst and composer Igor Stravinsky in beautiful unified creations like L’Oiseau de Fau and Petruska.

Michel Fokine’s relationship with the Diaghilev ballet deteriorated when Nijinsky was launched as a choreographer, but he still remained with the company until 1914 when he returned to Russia. It was during World War 1 and he toured with his wife, giving dance concert performances.

The pair left Russia in 1918 and made their home in New York City from 1923.

Fokine founded two short-lived ballet companies, the Fokine Ballet in 1922 and the American Ballet in 1924. Fokine became a U.S. citizen in 1932.

Between 1934 and 1936 he returned to Europe and choreographed several new works there for the Ballets Russes.

He worked with companies in both the USA and Europe creating new ballets such as L Epreuve d’amour in 1936 and Don Juan in 1936. None of these later ballets had the same impact that his earlier work did.

One of the few choreographers to come to a first rehearsal with clear and complete ideas for a ballet, Fokine had great facility and speed in choreographic invention, intense musicality, and the ability to memorize an orchestral score. He was by no means equable at work. Tamara Karsavina wrote in her autobiography Theatre Street that “he was extremely irritable and had no control of his temper,” but she emphasized that dancers became devoted to him.

The vocabulary of classical ballet has been enormously extended since Fokine’s day, and subsequent audiences sometimes feel that his choreography is dated. Those of his ballets remaining in production have inevitably suffered distortion. He himself was conscious that this would happen. “The longer a ballet exists in the repertoire,” he wrote in his Memoirs, “the further it departs from its original version. . . . After my death, the public, watching my ballets, will think ‘What nonsense Fokine staged! ”michel fokine

Here is a list of some of Michel Fokine’s well-known ballets:

Even if he had not been a choreographer, Michel Fokine would have lived in history as an outstanding dancer. His achievements in one art have tended to overshadow his greatness in the other. As a choreographer he is the most influential figure of the first half of the twentieth century, matching Noverre in the importance of his reforms and providing a reference pointe for all his successors.

He traveled to Mexico City for rehearsals of another new work, Helen of Troy, in the summer of 1942 but cut his trip short after suffering a blood clot in his left leg. His condition worsened, and he contracted pneumonia. He died on the 22nd of August 1942 in New York City.

The comedy ballet Helen of Troy for the American Ballet Theatre was completed by David Lichine and was premiered in Mexico City on the 10th of September 1942.

His wife Vera Fokine, who was also a dancer and who had performed in many of his ballets survived him until 1958.

Here is some rare video footage from that era.

Dawn Weller – South African Ballerina

dawn Weller

Dawn Weller – South African Ballerina – A Short Autobiography

Dawn Weller

Ken Yeatman, who is an Ex-Principal dancer with Pact, Capab, Pacofs and Napac Ballet Companies wrote this extract in the book, Dawn Weller: Portrait of a Ballerina, which describes her perfectly.

Dawn Weller did not reach her present position through natural talent.  She is
there because she has found unique ways of manipulating movements
and feelings.  Years ago, work had to be timed and scheduled for her,
details had to be worked out.  When I watch her in rehearsals now, she
knows exactly what to do, she gives instructions, she knows how to
phrase movements; it has all become instinctive.  A quality that Dawn
has had from the beginning is the ability to receive something,
perceive it and develop it in her own way.’

As I am South African, it is only fitting that I include entries on my dancing blog about some of the wonderful ballet dancers that our country has produced.   As South Africa doesn’t have a tremendous amount of opportunities to offer young dancers, we have lost a lot of our talent to overseas countries, but some have remained in South Africa to lead their home companies.

Today I would like to write a little about Dawn Weller who was Pact’s prima ballerina at one time.  Dawn Weller was one of those ballerina’s who had to work hard for what she achieved.  She didn’t possess natural talent, but she explored unique ways of manipulating movements and feelings.  She had the ability to receive something mediocre and develop it in her own way to make it great.

Dawn Weller was born in Durban in the Natal on the 16th of December 1947. She was the only child of Jack and Valencia Weller and she began her dance training at the tender age of two and a half with Iris Manning and Arlene Spear.

Dawn Weller was one of the first members of the Napac Ballet Company in 1964.  She toured with the company in Natal and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) but soon felt she needed further challenges that only a larger and more competitive company could offer her.  She, therefore, joined Pact Ballet in 1965.  For those of you who don’t already know, PACT stands for Performing Arts Company, Transvaal. You can read more about South African Ballet History here.

Dawn Weller started off in the corps de ballet and earned her principal status in 1968.  After a number of experienced dancers left the company, Dawn was forced to dance some very difficult roles before she was physically and mentally prepared for them. Because of this, she was made to feel inferior as a classical dancer for many years and it took her a long time to lose the barriers of the inhibitions that she had developed.

dawn WellerShe danced the way that she felt other people wanted her to dance because she was afraid of being hurt and she spent many years hiding behind a façade.  Once she was encouraged to express her own individual talent, the quality of her work changed from dancer to artist.

Dawn was known as a non-conformist ballerina, as she developed characters in her own way and breathed new life into them.  Her technique is based on the classical tradition, but she developed a style that is uniquely her own.

She danced many great roles over the years, including Giselle, Cinderella, Juliet Anna Karenina and even had some roles that were created especially for her like Sarabande.

She accepted the position of artistic director of the ballet company in June 1983 and a lot of people thought that this was the height of her career, but Dawn was reluctant to let go of her dancing career, and she retained her position as a principal dancer for the first couple of years.

Dawn Weller married Paul Ponthitos in 1973, and they had one son Gregorius who was born on the 16th of December 1977.  They were divorced in 1983.

dawn weller

Dawn Weller was the recipient of the Lilian Solomon Award for her roles in Giselle, Cinderella, Juliet, Anna Karenina and Juliet. She earned the friends of the ballet award for Papillon and Anna Karenina twice.

She also did guest performances with Napac Ballet as Swanilda in Coppelia and Capab Ballet as Sylvia.

Even though Pact Ballet Company has ceased to exist, many will remember the company and its dancers well. Dawn Weller was a major contributor to PACT, and ballet dancing in South Arica.

Dawn Weller : Portrait of a Ballerina

For more on Dawn Weller, there is a book available called Dawn Weller, Portrait of a Ballerina.

It is an interesting read if you like to read about dance history in South Africa.

Famous Ballet Dancers Through The Years

famous ballet dancers

Although there have been many famous ballet dancers over the years, some of them stick out in our minds more than others. One such dancer was definitely Margot Fonteyn who dominated British ballet for over forty years. This is an amazing feat, especially since the career span of a dancer is normally so short.

My List Of Favourite Famous Ballet Dancers

famous ballet dancersMargot Fonteyn

She was born in 1919 and her birth name was Peggy Hookman. She spent most of her childhood in China, but auditioned successfully for the Vic-Wells Ballet and in her first role was a snowflake in the Nutcracker ballet.

Margot Fonteyn de Arias became an international star when she danced in New York in 1949.

In 1956 she married and by 1960 she was hinting at going on retirement. All that vanished once Rudolph Nureyev leaped to freedom and international acclaim from Russia. The two made the most famous ballet partnership of all time. Thus Fonteyn only got to retire in the early ’70s.

famous ballet dancersAnna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova was a famous Russian dancer and was born in 1881. She was accepted by the St. Petersburg Ballet Academy at age eight and quickly attracted the attention of her teachers.

She joined the Imperial Ballet in 1899 and made her debut in La Fille Mal Gardee later that same year.

In 1905 she was made prima ballerina and was able to go on tour a few years later. She toured Britain and the United States in 1910 and 1911 and carried on touring for the next two decades. She made her home base London but died from pneumonia in The Hague in 1931.

famous ballet dancersPaloma Herrera

Paloma is one of the more recent famous ballet dancers. She started dancing at the age of seven at the Minsk Ballet School in Russia, before returning to her birthplace in Buenos Aires.

Her first main role was as Cupid in Don Quixote at Teatro Colon.

She continued her studies at the New York American School of Ballet. In 1995 she was promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre.

Paloma has danced numerous roles including Cinderella, Coppelia, Giselle, Mathilda in Anastasia and Swan Lake.

famous ballet dancersDame Alicia Markova

Dame Alicia Markova is considered to be the greatest ballerina of her time. She was born in 1910 and was sent to ballet by her mother who thought she needed help correcting her flat feet and weak legs.

Dame Alicia Markova retired in 1963 from an illustrious stage career due to a leg injury but went on to become a brilliant ballet teacher, passing on her own wonderful skills and knowledge to many others.

famous ballet dancersMisty Copeland

Misty Copeland is the Internet sensation of the moment. She started ballet at the very late age of thirteen and was helped by her teacher who saw her enormous potential.

She has a heartbreaking home life during her childhood but becomes a success despite all the odds working against her.

At the age of fifteen, she won first place at the Music Center Spotlight Awards, which is unheard of after just two years of dancing.

Misty joined American Ballet Theatre’s student company in 2000, and the next year was accepted into the American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet.

In 2007 she became the company’s second African American Female soloist and the first in two decades.

She was promoted to principal in June 2015 and was the first ever African American women to ever be promoted to that position in the companies seventy-five-year history.

You can read more about Misty Copeland Here, or Google her name and watch some of her awesome dancing on YouTube.

Those are just a few of my favorite famous ballet dancers and you can read about others by clicking here.

Who Was Adeline Genee And How Did She Influence Ballet?

Adeline Genee
Dame Adeline Genee is a name that is not familiar with most of the general public, but in her time Adeline Genee was well known and celebrated in England as a great ballet dancer. She was a Danish girl and at the age of 15 already a veteran of five years on the stage.

Dame Adeline Genee History

She was born Anina Kirstina Margarete Petra Jensen in Arhus, Denmark in 1878. She took ballet dancing lessons with her uncle Alexandre Genee from the age of three. When she was eight years old, Alexandre and his wife Antonia adopted her.

She changed her name to Adeline in honor of the Italian opera star Adelina Patti. Adeline Genee made her debut with her uncle’s touring company when she was ten years old in Oslo.

She danced at the Zentralhallen Theatre at Stettin and at the age of seventeen appeared at the Imperial Opera in Berlin. She then moved on to dance in Copenhagen and London where she was made principal ballerina with The Royal Opera House.

In 1896 she danced with the Berlin Court Opera Ballet and the Munich Opera Ballet. A year later she accepted a six-week booking in England and ended up staying ten years.

From the year April 1905, she was said to have danced in 400 performances of the musical play, The Little Michus, at Daly’s Theatre.

Adeline Genee was versatile enough to dance light music hall roles, as well as most of the classical roles. Slender and elegant, she was often described as like “Dresden China”.  Her dress style was very old fashioned, as she preferred the style of costume that belonged in the 1830s.adeline genee

In 1910, Adeline Genée got married to Frank S. N. Isitt and gradually reduced the frequency of her appearances.  In 1911, Alexis Kosloff presented her with a silver trophy, inscribed “To the World’s Greatest Dancer.”

For several years, Adeline Genée alternated between a season in London and one in New York.  Diaghilev also saw her ballet dancing and immediately offered her a contract, but she refused it.  Adeline Genée devised her own ballet, called La Camargo, and on 21 June 1913, she returned to her greatest role, as Swanilda in Coppélia, this time in Melbourne and Sydney.

She officially retired from performing in 1914, but not before taking her own company to America, and then touring Australia and New Zealand.

In 1916, she went on a sixteen-week tour of Australia with J. C. Williamson’s company.  The Australian navy wildly cheered her dancing the hornpipe in a charity performance billed as “Navy Night.”

On returning to London, she gave her last major performance in April 1916 at the Coliseum in “The Pretty Prentice.” After that, she appeared only in occasional charity performances and commemorations.

adeline geneeIn 1923, Genée was awarded the Order of “Ingenue et Arti” by the King of Denmark. Adeline Genée last performed at the Coliseum Theatre in London on March 4, 1933, when the theater changed from a music hall into an opera house.

Genée became a Dame of the British Empire in 1950. She gave her name to the Genee Theatre in East Grinstead and the Genée studio in the Royal Academy of Dance, Battersea, London.

Her best-loved role was that of Swanhilda in Coppelia and she is still remembered for the gravity-defying lightness of her ballet dancing.  She was known to ‘positively bounce,’ as if the ground was too hot for her feet to stay on.

Adeline Genee was one of the founders of the Association of Operatic Dancing, which we know today as the Royal Academy of Dance. She was the first president of the Academy and worked relentlessly to establish it, not only in England, but also in North America. Genee was also on the panel of examiners for the first examinations that were held by the Association of Operatic Dancing.

Adeline Genee’s work for the Academy began at the beginning and ended long after she had retired from the presidency. Her word was always law, and she had a strong and powerful personality. She was an immaculately dressed woman at all times and very distinguished.

Adeline Genee passed away in 1970.

A Brief History of her Work with the Royal Academy of Dance:adeline genee

 In 1920, Genée collaborated with Philip Richardson of the Dancing Time magazine, with the aim of improving the standard of dance and the teaching of dance in the United Kingdom. This led Richardson to organize a meeting of eminent dance professionals at the former Trocadero Restaurant in Piccadilly, with Genée as one of his special guests representing what were, at the time, recognized as the leading methods of Classical Ballet training.

Queen Mary consented to become the Academy’s Patron.  A Royal Charter was eventually granted by King George V in 1935, with the Association becoming the Royal Academy of Dancing.

In 1953, Dame Adeline Genée instituted the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award. She was President of the Academy until her retirement in 1954 when she was succeeded by Dame Margot Fonteyn.

Today, the Association is known as the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), with Dame Antoinette Sibley as President. It has grown to become one of the largest and most influential dance teaching and examination boards in the World.  The RAD now has over 13,000 members and operates in 79 countries Worldwide. There are currently over 1,000 students in full-time or part-time teacher training programs with the Academy and each year, the examination syllabus is taught to more than a quarter of a million students worldwide.

Genée International Ballet Competition

 In 1931, the Association established the Adeline Genée Gold Medal Awards, as a scholarship scheme for aspiring young dancers.

Initially, medals were only awarded to female dancers, but awards for men were later introduced in 1939.

Today, the Royal Academy of Dance continue to offer the awards, however, they have become known as the Genée International Ballet Competition, which is recognized as one of the most prestigious dance competitions in the world. The Genée competition now attracts candidates from around the world, with recent finals being held overseas in Australia, Canada, Greece, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Now I know that you would love to see Dame Adeline Genee dancing, but this is the only live video footage I could find of her where she examined a set of advanced students.

The Royal Ballet History – Englands Jewel

the royal ballet history
the royal ballet history
Eric Underwood and Melissa Hamilton in Infra 2010

In this post, I would love to share the Royal Ballet History with you, as it is both interesting and fascinating.

The Royal Ballet is one of the most Famous ballet companies in the world and is internationally renowned for its artistic and creative excellence.

Marie Rambert and Ninette de Valois are just two of some of the great women that England owes their ballet dancing greatness to.  This is a brief outline and history of how the Royal Ballet came to be.

The Royal Ballet History

Marie Rambert (1888 – 1982) was actually born Cyvia Rambam in Poland.  In those days dancers felt that they had to have French or Russian names in order to succeed, so most of their names were changed.

She was trained in Eurythmy and then joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and helped Nijinsky with the Rite of Spring.

In the early 1920’s she started the Rambert Ballet School, a ballet company where Frederick Ashton and Antony Tudor got their start in the ballet world.  Ballet Rambert is now known as Rambert Dance and is a well known and great contemporary troupe of dancers.

Ninette de Valois (1898 – 2001) was born in Ireland and also changed her name from Edris Stannus.  She also danced for Diaghilev and also formed her own company and school.

The company she formed started as the Vic-Wells Opera Ballet in 1931, went on to become the Sadler’s Wells Ballet. This company is now known as The Royal Ballet.

Ninette de Valois was a choreographer herself and did numerous revivals of the nineteenth-century classic ballet’s.  She believed in having a mix in the company’s repertory of traditional classical, romantic and modern works.

Frederick Aston became her perfect partner, and together they forged the company style that melded rigorous schooling and corps work, strong narrative instincts and gentle lyricism.

From 1935 Frederick Aston created ballets for future works for The Royal Ballet and used a young dancer called Peggy Hookham who we better know as Margot Fonteyn.  Margot Fonteyn became the next leading ballerina after Alicia Markova.

In 1946 The Royal Ballet history was changed again when it transferred to its current home in Covent Garden. As part of its 25th-anniversary celebrations in 1956, the Company was granted its Royal Charter, thus becoming The Royal Ballet.

During World War II the ballet company had to cope with air raids, blackouts, and loss of their men, including Aston to the draft, but they nevertheless continued to perform throughout the war.

The company then moved to the newly reopened Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in 1946 and opened with The Sleeping Beauty.  This production with Fonteyn as Aurora was a hit in New York in 1949.

With Margot Fonteyn as his muse, Frederick Ashton produced ballets that celebrated the English style.  Ashton’s first full-length original work was made on Moira Shearer with Red Shoes, as Margot had an injury.

In Cinderella, Ashton himself was the funniest ugly sister.

Ondine was another hit that showed off Fonteyn’s playful qualities as a water sprite.

The Royal Ballet History
Edward Watson in Gloria 2011

Other great dancers that the Royal ballet has nurtured included Moira Shearer, Rudolf Nureyev, Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, and Darcey Bussell.

Ashton took over The Royal Ballet from Ninette de Valois in 1963 for seven years.

Directors after that included Kenneth MacMillan, Anthony Dowell and until quite recently, Monica Mason who is one of The Royal Ballet’s former ballerina’s.

Kevin O’Hare succeeded Monica Mason as Director in August 2012.

To this day the Royal Ballet maintains a vast repertory, showcasing the great classical ballets and heritage works from its two great 20th century choreographers – Founder Choreographer Frederick Ashton, Kenneth Macmillan and others including John Cranko, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

The Royal Ballet History will carry on as it continues to foster new work from leading choreographers of the day.

The Royal Ballet still has some of the greatest dancers in the world today.

For a history lesson on the Royal Academy of Dance, click here.

Misty Copeland Book – Life In Motion

misty copeland book

I have just finished reading the Misty Copeland Book – Life in Motion. I love reading true stories about how other people made a success of their lives, and this book is all about Ballerina Misty Copeland, and her struggles growing up and how her determination to succeed as a bmisty copeland bookallerina made it happen for her.

Life In Motion Review

In this Misty Copeland book, Misty tells us the story of her life up until now.

I enjoyed the first half of the book a lot better than I enjoyed the last half.

I enjoyed reading about her struggles growing up with a large family with five siblings, very little money, and very little chance of success, as she was constantly moved by her Mom whenever the next best opportunity came around.

Misty discovers for herself at a young age that she is more flexible than most of her peers, and she dreams of becoming a gymnast. She starts her ballet training very late at the age of 13 and is helped by her teacher and coach who sees her potential. She is even taken in by her ballet teacher to live with her and her family, in order to try and improve her home life, but Misty’s Mom eventually puts her foot down and insists she moves back home.

At the age of fifteen, she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards just two years after starting her dance classes which is almost unheard of.

She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on a full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000.

Misty Copeland joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000.  She joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001, and in August 2007 became the company’s second African American female Soloist and the first in two decades.

In June 2015, Misty was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African-American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history.

Misty Copeland is well known as a ballerina who defies the odds, as she is a person of colour who is trying to succeed in a white-dominated career.

 

 Misty Copeland’s book was an instant New York Times bestseller. Misty Copeland makes history, telling the story of her journey to become the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre.

The reason that Misty Copeland has made history, is because she became the first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. But when she first placed her hands on the barre at an after-school community center, no one expected the undersized, underprivileged, and anxious thirteen-year-old to become one of America’s most groundbreaking dancers.

Within months of starting her dance career, she was attempting roles that most dancers take years and years to master.

She found refuge in the world of ballet away from the harsh realities of her own life, and it took her a lot of courage to become a one of a kind dancer and success story.

This is a wonderful story and memoir for anyone who has dared to dream of a different life.

Below is a video of her dancing for the late Prince, whom she regularly appeared with when he was on tour. She also developed a close bond with him, which she talks about in her book.

Looking For A Misty Copeland Book To Purchase Online?

Here are a few of the Misty Copeland books on offer at Amazon. If you need to find out more about the products, simply click on the photo’s or the blue links.

Firebird

Firebird is Misty Copeland’s debut picture book.

She tells of a girl with a fragile ego who questions her own ability to reach the heights that she has reached.

This book shows exactly how her dream of becoming a firebird became a reality with hard work and dedication

Lyrical text paired with bold and striking illustrations that are some of Caldecott Honoree Christopher Myers’s best works, makes Firebird perfect for aspiring ballerinas everywhere.

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

This is the another cover to the book that I have described at the beginning of this post. A great read for anybody who loves to find out more about what it takes to be a ballerina.

Misty Copeland

This is a stunning volume of photographs that captures the sculpturally exquisite and iconic Misty Copeland.

Her story is what movies are made of, and in 2015 she became an icon and household name when she became the first African-American female principal dancer in the long and prestigious history the American Ballet Theatre.

Copeland’s physique is what sculptures are modeled on, heralding the new physical ideal of strength and athleticism, beauty and grace.

This Misty Copeland Book is a collection of gorgeous, artful photographs by celebrated photographer Gregg Delman, taken in many studio visits between 2011 and 2014. Delman’s talent for capturing movement is reflected in these images, which range from formal ballet positions to more athletic poses and candid moments, all together building an intimate portrait of Copeland as an athlete, an artist, and a woman.

By clicking on the picture on the left, you can even purchase a Misty Copeland Barbie Doll in her Firebird costume for only $29.99 from Amazon.

Her endorsements, past and present, include American Express, COACH, and Diet Dr. Pepper. In 2014, Under Armour launched Misty as one of the faces of their “I Will What I Want” campaign with a commercial that went viral, gaining over 9,000,000 views to date.

Misty’s passion is giving back. She has worked with many charitable organizations and is dedicated to giving of her time to work with and mentor young girls and boys. In 2014, President Obama appointed Misty to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford in November 2014 for her contributions to classical ballet and helping to diversify the art form.

How Did Modern Dance Start?

how did modern dance start

how did modern dance startIf you are a ballet lover like myself, then naturally you would also enjoy modern ballet. How did modern dance start and who began it all? I only started modern dancing in my teens but have always loved it, so much that I got my teachers qualifications for it, and it is still one of my favorite dance forms next to ballet.

How Did Modern Dance Start?

Modern ballet, or modern dance as we know it today started around the end of the nineteenth century. Modern dance was initially started in the United States by Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, and Ruth St. Denis and in Germany by Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman.  Modern dance was initially a sort of rebellion against the strict constraints of both the Victorian society and classical ballet.

Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan were among those that started it all, by abandoning the classical tutu for draperies that allowed for freer and more natural movement. Loie Fuller was almost invisible because she wore so many yards of fabric and she manipulated the fabric with long sticks.  Isadora Duncan preferred to dance in flowing silk tunics, to imitate the nobility of the Greek architecture and the motion of the ocean waves.

how did modern dance startComposers like Chopin were used, and Fokine was also influenced by this so much so that ballet was transformed.

Ruth St. Denis was another trailblazer in the beginnings of modern dance. Ruth was fascinated by the Eastern culture and mythology. Her dances were a Western reimagination of Indian and Asian dance. Together with her husband, Ted Shawn, she founded Denisshawn and toured Vauderville. Students at their school in Los Angeles included future pioneers Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

Thus the second wave of modern dancers emerged in New York.

Together Humphrey and Weidman created a more lyrical style of modern dance, and like all modern dance it worked a lot on the floor. While ballet denied gravity, modern dance, on the other hand, embraced it.

Martha Graham founded her own company and developed her own technique, and a lot of her technique is still used in syllabus around the world today.

Although when people consider how did modern dance start, it is often considered an American phenomenon, the evolution of this dance form can also be traced to central Europe and Germany, with Rudolf von Laban being the most influential. In 1910 he founded a school in Munich at which Mary Wigman was one of his students. He was exiled in the 1930’s and he immigrated to England and established the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester where he worked until his death on his system of notation.

Mary Wigan went on to perform in Germany and opened her own school in Dresden in 1920. She became the most influential German in expressive movement and toured extensively. Her school was closed by the Nazis, but she reopened it in Berlin in 1948.how did modern dance start

Modern dance was based on basic human movement experiences such as walking and breathing, and these actions were transformed into dance movements. The technique of contraction and release came from natural breathing and further explored the movements initiated in the torso. Fall and recovery were evolved from the natural dynamic of the human footfall.

 

During the 1930s, choreographers defined modern dance and ballet in opposition to one another. Modern dance was established as a technique with its own internal coherence and ballets was defined by reaffirming the essential tenets of its tradition. Both ballet and modern choreographers focused on the purity of their traditions.

So this answers how did modern dance start out. Of course, this was just the beginning, and over the years since then, modern dance has evolved into many other styles, including cabaret, broadway, physical theatre, jazz and even hip-hop.