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Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova (January 23, 1931) was a Russian ballerina of the late 19th and the early 20th century. She is widely regarded as one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history and was most noted as a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev. Pavlova is most recognised for the creation of the role The Dying Swan and, with her own company, became the first ballerina to tour ballet around the world.


Early life

Photographic postcard of Anna Pavlova as the Princess Aspicia in the Petipa/Pugni The Pharaoh's Daughter, Saint Petersburg, c. 1910
nna Pavlova costumed for the Pand ros in the Petipa/Glazunov Raymonda, Saint Petersburg, 1910

Her mother was a laundress named Lyubov Feodorovna. The identity of her father has been open to debate. She later claimed her father had died when she was two years old. Some sources, including The Saint Petersburg Gazette, have claimed that her illegitimate father was the Jewish Russian banker Lazar Polyakov.[1] Her mother's second husband, Matvey Pavlov, is believed to have adopted her at the age of three, by which she acquired his last name.

Pavlova's passion for the art of ballet was ignited when her mother took her to a performance of Marius Petipa's original production of The Sleeping Beauty at the Imperial Maryinsky Theater. The lavish spectacle made an impression on the young Pavlova, and at the age of nine she was taken by her mother to audition for the renowned Imperial Ballet School. Because of her age, and what was considered to be a "sickly" appearance, she was not chosen, but in 1891 she was finally accepted, at the age of 10. She appeared for the first time on stage in Marius Petipa's Un conte de f es (A Fairy Tale), which the ballet master staged for the students of the school.

The young Pavlova's years of training were difficult, as classical ballet did not come easily to her. Her severely arched feet, thin ankles, and long limbs clashed with the small and compact body in favor for the ballerina at the time. Her fellow students taunted her with such nicknames as The broom and La petite sauvage (The little savage). Undeterred, Pavlova trained to improve her technique. She took extra lessons from the noted teachers of the day Christian Johansson, Pavel Gerdt, Nikolai Legat and more especially from Enrico Cecchetti, considered the greatest ballet virtuoso of the time and founder of the Cecchetti method, a very influential ballet technique used up to this day. In 1898 she entered the classe de perfection of Ekaterina Vazem, former Prima ballerina of the Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres.

During her final year at the Imperial Ballet School, she performed many roles with the principal company. She graduated in 1899 at age 18, being allowed to enter the Imperial Ballet a rank ahead of corps de ballet as a coryph e. She made her official d but at the Mariinsky Theatre in Pavel Gerdt's Les Dryades pr tendues (The False Dryads). Her performance drew praise from the critics, particularly the great critic and historian Nikolai Bezobrazov.


Pavlova rose through the ranks quickly, becoming a favorite of the old maestro Petipa. It was from Petipa himself that Pavlova learned the title role in Paquita, Princess Aspicia in The Pharaoh's Daughter, Queen Nisia in Le Roi Candaule, and Giselle. She was named danseuse in 1902, premi re danseuse in 1905, and finally prima ballerina in 1906 after a resounding performance in Giselle. Petipa revised many grand pas for her, as well as many supplemental variations. She was much celebrated by the fanatical balletomanes of Tsarist Saint Petersburg, her legions of fans calling themselves the Pavlovatzi.

When the prima ballerina assoluta of the Imperial Theaters Mathilde Kschessinska was pregnant in 1901, she coached Pavlova in the role of Nikya in La Bayad re. Kschessinska, not wanting to be upstaged, was certain Pavlova would fail in the role, as she was considered technically inferior because of her small ankles and lithe legs. Instead audiences became enchanted with Pavlova and her frail, ethereal look, which fitted the role perfectly, particularly in the scene The Kingdom of the Shades.

Anna Pavlova in the Fokine/Saint-Sa ns The Dying Swan, Saint Petersburg, 1905

Her feet were extremely rigid, so she strengthened her pointe shoe by adding a piece of hard wood on the soles for support and curving the box of the shoe. At the time, many considered this "cheating", for a ballerina of the era was taught that she, not her shoes, must hold her weight en pointe. In Pavlova's case this was extremely difficult, as the shape of her feet required her to balance her weight on her little toes. Her solution became, over time, the precursor of the modern pointe shoe, as pointe work became less painful and easier for curved feet. According to Margot Fonteyn's biography, Pavlova did not like the way her invention looked in photographs, so she would remove it or have the photographs altered so that it appeared she was using a normal pointe shoe.[2]

Pavlova is perhaps most renowned for creating the role of The Dying Swan, a solo choreographed for her by Michel Fokine. The ballet, created in 1905, is danced to Le cygne from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Sa ns.

In the first years of the Ballets Russes Pavlova worked briefly for Sergei Diaghilev. Originally she was to dance the lead in Mikhail Fokine's The Firebird, but refused the part, as she could not come to terms with Igor Stravinsky's avant-garde score, and the role was given to Tamara Karsavina. All her life Pavlova preferred the melodious "musique dansante" of the old maestros such as Cesare Pugni and Ludwig Minkus, and cared little for anything else which strayed from the salon-style ballet music of the 19th century.

By the mid-20th century she founded her own company and performed throughout the world, with a repertory consisting primarily of abridgements of Petipa's works, and specially choreographed pieces for herself. Members of her company included Kathleen Crofton. The ballet writer Cyril Johnson described that "her bourr es were like a string of pearls".


After leaving Russia, Pavlova moved to London, England, settling, in 1912, at the Ivy House on North End Road, Golders Green, north of Hampstead Heath, where she lived for the rest of her life. The house had an ornamental lake where she fed her pet swans, and where now stands a statue of her by the Scots sculptor George Henry Paulin. The house was featured in the film "Anna Pavlova". It is now the London Jewish Cultural Centre but a blue plaque marks it as a site of significant historical interest being Pavlova's home.[3][4] While in London Pavlova was influential in the development of British ballet, most notably inspiring the career of Alicia Markova. The Gate pub, located on the border of Arkley and Totteridge (London Borough of Barnet), has a story, framed on its walls, describing a visit by Pavlova and her dance company.

Pavlova was introduced to audiences in the United States by Max Rabinoff during his time as managing director of the Boston Grand Opera Company from 1914 to 1917 and was featured there with her Russian Ballet Company during that period.[5]

Personal life

Victor Dandr , her manager and companion, may have been her husband (she deliberately clouded this issue).


Anna Pavlova arriving in The Hague in 1927 While touring in The Hague, Netherlands, Pavlova was told that she had pneumonia and required an operation. She was also told that she would never be able to dance again if she went ahead with it. She refused to have the surgery, saying "If I can't dance then I'd rather be dead." She died of pleurisy, three weeks short of her 50th birthday. She was holding her costume from The Dying Swan when she spoke her last words, "Play the last measure very softly." Her death came in the Hotel Des Indes in The Hague, which displays a wall plaque and has a cigar lounge named the Anna Pavlova Library in her memory.

In accordance with old ballet tradition, on the day she was to have next performed, the show went on as scheduled, with a single spotlight circling an empty stage where she would have been. Memorial services were held in the Russian Orthodox Church in London. Anna Pavlova was cremated, and her ashes placed in a columbarium at Golders Green Crematorium, where her urn was subsequently adorned with her ballet shoes (which since then have been stolen).

Pavlova's ashes have been a source of much controversy, following attempts by Valentina Zhilenkova and Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, to have them flown to Moscow for interment in the Novodevichy Cemetery. These attempts were based on claims that it was Pavlova's dying wish that her ashes be returned to Russia following the fall of Communism. These claims were later found to be false, as there is no evidence to suggest that this was her wish at all. The only documentary evidence that suggests that such a move would be possible is in the will of Pavlova's husband, who stipulated that if Russian authorities agreed to such a move and treated her remains with proper reverence, then the crematorium caretakers should agree to it. Despite this clause, the will does not contain a formal request or plans for a posthumous journey to Russia.

The most recent attempt to move Pavlova's remains to Russia came in 2001. Golders Green Crematorium had made arrangements for them to be flown to Russia for interment on 14 March 2001, in a ceremony to be attended by various Russian dignitaries. This plan was later abandoned after Russian authorities withdrew permission for the move. It was later revealed that neither Pavlova's family nor the Russian Government had sanctioned the move and that they had agreed the remains should stay in London.[6][7]


Commemorative coin]], Central Bank of Russia

Pavlova inspired the choreographer Frederick Ashton when as a boy of 13 he saw her dance in in the Municipal Theater in Lima, Peru.

The Pavlova dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years.

The Jarabe Tapat o, known in English as the 'Mexican Hat Dance', gained popularity outside of Mexico when Pavlova created a staged version in pointe shoes, for which she was showered with hats by her adoring Mexican audiences. Afterward, in 1924, the Jarabe Tapat o was proclaimed Mexico s national dance.

She once said that the country that would produce the best ballerina in history would be the United States because of all the different cultures that came together there.

Anna Pavlova was able to complete 37 turns while on top of a moving elephant while on a tour in China.

In 1980, Igor Carl Faberge licensed a collection of 8 inch Full Lead Crystal Wine Glasses to commemorate the centenary of Anna's birth. The glasses were crafted in Japan under the supervision of The Franklin Mint. A frosted image of Anna Pavlova appears in the stem of each glass. Originally each set contained 12 glasses.

Pavlova's life was depicted in the 1983 film Anna Pavlova.

When the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, England, opened in 1911, a gilded statue of Pavlova had been installed above the cupola of the theatre. This was taken down for its safety during World War II and was lost. In 2006, a replica of the original statue was restored in its place.[8]

A McDonnell Douglas MD-11 of the Dutch airlines "KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines", built at 1995-8-31, with the registration "PH-KCH" carries her name.


File:Christmas pavlova.jpg|Christmas pavlova File:TapatioDanceMuseoLuzDF.JPG|Stained glass window entitled "El Jarabe Tapatio" File:The Butterfly costume design for Anna Pavlova by L.Bakst (1913).jpg|The Butterfly (Costume Design by Leon Bakst for Anna Pavlova), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston File:Victoria Palace Theatre London 2011 4.jpg|London, Victoria Palace Theatre, rooftop statue of Anna Pavlova

See also

  • List of Russian ballet dancers


External links

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