Russian Ballet History

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes 1909-1929


Ballets Russes Birthday - In Celebration of Sonia's 90th

Posted on December 10, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Happy birthday Sonia!  Indeed this coming Thursday, December 17, 2009 marks the birthday of someone truly special, Sonia Wojcikowska.  Who is Sonia, you ask?  Sonia is the daughter of two of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes dancers, the God-daughter of Picasso and an accomplished ballerina, who also was a member of the Ballets Russes.  More of her story is posted below.  Sonia taught dance at her mother's studio, The Academy of the Dance, here in Wilmington, Delaware and there are many in Delaware who have such fabulous "Sonia" stories, as she is quite the woman.  I invite those of you who are Members of our site to share your Sonia stories with us this month.  And if you know someone who has stories to share but is NOT a member, we urge you, to urge them, to join our site and share. 

I myself only met Sonia once, and she left quite an impression; visit our Lena, Sonia, Leon web page.  But I am told that these days, she prefers to watch the New York Yankees, a big fan I understand - good taste.  Apparently, due to some difficult times, Sonia chooses not to share her memories of her Ballets Russes years.  While I respect that, as they are her stories to tell or not tell, it is a shame for us, as hers are stories that will now never be told, a book we'd like to read, but one she doesn't want to write.

Sonia's Bio

Sonia Wojcikowska (1919 – present)

Born December 17, 1919 Sonia was educated at the Lycee Jules Ferrier school in Paris under Lubov Egorova. Sonia started her career as a little girl in a walk-on part in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes production of “Petrouchka” holding the hand of Enrico Cecchetti. Sonia’s parents, Helena Antonova and Leon Wojcikowski, were both stars of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company. Sonia’s godfather was Pablo Picasso. At 9, Sonia sang the part of Chaliapin’s grand-daughter in Opera La Sirene, (The Mermaid) at Paris Opera. Later she sang two Spanish songs off-stage for Leonide Massine’s “Three Cornered Hat”. When Sonia was thirteen she danced with her mother at the Paris Opera with Les Ballets Ida Rubinstein. Sonia danced many of her mother's roles. (Her father told her once that he could not tell them apart.) By replacing Nathalie Krassovska in Rubinstein's company Sonia danced her first solo in Mikhail Fokine's "Diane de Poitiers".

Sonia joined Mme. Egorova’s “Ballet de la Jeunesse” at 14 years of age. She later became a soloist with the Original Ballet Russse in 1938. Sonia first came to the United States on the Normandie to dance in the World’s Fair in 1939. In 1940 she became a soloist with Ballet Theatre, now American Ballet Theatre in New York City. Sonia also had a part in the original “Oklahoma” and was the “Foxhole Ballerina” for the troups in WWII. Sonia became a US citizen in 1949. She married violinist Joska de Barbary and still resides in New York City. She is 90 years old this year, or more appropriately 90 years young!


June 1963 Dance Magazine Article

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Reply Nina McKissock
10:48 AM on December 14, 2009
Could someone help me with the history of one of your dancers? His name was Ken McKenzie and he was an American dancer and traveld with Ballet Russe in the twenties. He was in outh America with the comapny when they could not return home becuase Hitler was bombing the oceans and travel was too dangerous.
Thank you sooo much!
Reply russianballethistory
05:24 PM on December 14, 2009
Usually, especially when Diaghilev was alive intil 1929, all Ballets Russes dancers had Russian names. Even if they were not Russian, they were usually give a Russian stage name. Do yu happen to know what Kevin McKenzie's BR Russian stage name was? I have BR programs from the 20's but didn't see a Kevin McKenzie in them.

Reply Aurora
08:57 AM on December 21, 2009
Thank you Stacey,
Kenneth McKenzie or MacKenzie. I will have to ask his son what his Russian name was. I just met Yvonne Patterson, who is living in Pennsylvania, is 99 years old and has so many memories of dancing with Ballet Russe and then the SAB. Thank you so much for your time so far.


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