Olga Preobrajenska – Birthday February 2
Felia Doubrovska – Birthday February 13
Leon Woizikowski – Birthday February 20, Died February 23
February is the month that Leon Woizikowski was born in and the month that he and Lydia Sokolova both died in. Lydia Sokolova and Leon Woizikowski both danced with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes until Diaghilev's death in 1929. Leon's wife, Helena Antonova (Lena) started with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1915, two years after Lydia and one year before Leon joined.
February’s Featured Post Diaghilev Dancers
Mia Slavenska – Birthday February 20
Mia was born in 1914 in Yugoslavia. She studied in Zagreb with Josephine Weiss, then in Vienna with Leo Dubois. When she moved to Paris she continued her studies with Lubov Egorova, Mathilda Kschessinska and Olga Preobrajenska.
Mia became ballerina of the Zagreb Opera (1930-33) and joined the Paris Opera in 1933, dancing with Serge Lifar. In London she danced with Anton Dolin before joining the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1938-42). She later formed her own company, Ballet Variante. Mia also continued to dance as a guest artist for many major ballet companies, and in 1953 she established the Slavenska-Franklin ballet company with Frederic Franklin. One of the roles she created was Blanche Dubois in Valerie Bettis' A Streetcar Named Desire. In her final years, she taught ballet in Los Angeles. She passed away on October 5, 2002.
Slavenska starred in a wonderful French film, La Mort du Cygne (1938), in which she and Yvette Chauviré (who later became a prima ballerina of the Paris Opera Ballet) played rival ballerinas. Janine Charrat, who became one of France's leading choreographers, played a young ballet student. You may have seen the Hollywood version, called The Unfinished Dance (1947), which I think set ballet in this country back a hundred years.
Nathalie Krassovska – Died February 8
Nathalie passed away February 8, 2005. Nathalie was born in Lennigrad, Moscow in 1919. Her mother was a dancer with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and her grandmother was a soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet. She studied with Olga Preobrajenska in Paris and Legat in London.
She danced with Nijinska's Company in Paris 1932, with Balanchine's Les Ballets 1933 and with Serge Lifar in South America 1934. She then danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo 1936-1950 and with the London Festival Ballet 1950-1955. Nathalie performed in Warner Borthers movie featuring the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo called Gaite Parisienne.
Nijinska danced in her brother Nijinaky’s short lived ballet company in London in 1914. In 1915 she returned to Russia. Nijinska danced in Kiev, opening a school where she trained her most famous student, Serge Lifar.
In 1921,Nijinska rejoined the Ballets Russes. While a dancer with the Ballets Russes, she also became the chief choreographer of the company. One of Bronislava's first pieces was Three Ivans for Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty. Her first ballets were Igor Stravinsky's Renard in 1922 and Les Noces 1923. The following year she choreographed Les Biches (photo right), Les Fâcheux and Le Train Bleu. Bronislava later choreographed for the Paris Opéra, Opéra Russe à Paris, and her own company. Occassionally she taught at the American Ballet Theatre School in New York City.
February’s Featured Ballet Russes Artists
Christian Bérard – Died February 13
Christian, also known as Bébé, was a French artist, fashion illustrator and designer. Bérard and his lover Boris Kochno, who directed the Ballets Russes, was also co-founder of the Ballet des Champs-Elysées,
From the start of his career he had an interest in theatrical scenery and costume designs, and played an important role in the development of theatrical design in the 1930s and 1940s. He also worked as a fashion illustrator for Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Nina Ricci. Bérard's most renowned achievement was probably his lustrous, magical designs for Jean Cocteau's 1946 film La Belle et la Bête.
Bérard died suddenly in 1949, on the stage of the Théâtre de Marigny. Francis Poulenc's Stabat Mater was composed in his memory.
Alexandre Nikolayevich Benois – Died February 9
Alexandre's father Nicholas Benois and brother Leon Benois were noted Russian architects. Alexandre didn't plan to devote his life to art and graduated from the Faculty of Law, St. Petersburg University in 1894. Three years later, while in Versailles, he painted a series of watercolors depicting Last Promenades of Louis XIV. When exhibited by Pavel Tretyakov in 1897, they brought him to attention of Sergei Diaghilev and Leon Bakst. Together they founded the art magazine and movement Mir iskusstva which aimed at promoting the Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau in Russia.
In 1901, Benois was appointed scenic director of the Mariinsky Theatre where he devoted most of his time to stage design and decor. He designed sets and costumes for Dighilev’s Ballets Russes productions of Les Sylphides in 1909, Giselle in 1910, and Petrushka in 1911. Although he worked primarily with Diaghilev for the Ballets Russes, he simultaneously collaborated with the Moscow Art Theatre and other notable theatres of Europe.
Benois edited Mir iskusstva but also pursued his scholarly interests preparing and printing several monographs on the 19th-century Russian art and Tsarskoye Selo. From 1918 to 1926, he ran the gallery of Old Masters in the Hermitage Museum, to which he secured his brother's heirloom—Leonardo's Madonna Benois. In 1903, he printed his illustrations to Pushkin's Bronze Horseman.
February’s Ballet Legend
Anna Pavlova – Birthday February 12
Born February 12, 1881, in a military hospital in St. Petersburg, Anna Pavlova was the illegitimate daughter of a laundry-woman. Her father was said to have been a young Jewish soldier and businessman. The young Anna Pavlova was raised by her grandmother at her villa in Ligovo, an upscale suburb of St. Petersburg. It was there she became acquainted with aristocratic society and attended ballet performances at the Imperial Maryinsky Theatre. When she saw The Sleeping Beauty performed, Anna Pavlova decided to become a dancer, but was rejected at the age of 8, and practiced at home for two years. At the age of 10, she was examined and admitted by Marius Petipa to the ballet class at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. There she practiced ballet routines for eight hours daily and also studied music.
Anna was said to have a perfect pitch. As a ballet student, Pavlova adopted a strict diet with emphasis on fish and vegetables and followed the diet through her entire life. She lived at the Boarding School of the Imperial Ballet until her graduation at the age of 18. Ballerinas Tamara Karsavina and Mathilde Kschessinska were among her classmates. Anna made her debut on September 19, 1899, and worked with the Maryinsky Ballet from 1899-1907. Ann performed with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1909 for their premier performance in Paris. She did not stay with the company, however, she believed that Diaghilev’s attention was too much on Nijinsky. Anna did return to dance with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in London in 1911.
Later, Anna Pavlova toured the world with her own company keeping a home in London, where her exotic pets kept her constant company when she was there. Anna shared her home with Victor Dandré, her manager, her companion, and he may have been her husband, stories conflict.
While her contemporary, Isadora Duncan, introduced revolutionary innovations to dance, Anna Pavlova remained largely committed to the classics. America loved Anna and she was responsible for helping to make ballet popular for little girls all across the country. She soon became known as the "Sublime Pavlova."