Biography of Famous Russian Dancer and Ballerina Anna Pavlova Part 1

About the famous Russian dancer and ballerina Anna Pavlova, history and biography of her.

Anna Pavlova (1882-1931). One of the great geniuses of the dance and the most famous ballerina of all time was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on January 31, 1882. Anna Pavlova was the only child of an exceedingly poor family. Frail and weak because of her premature birth, she suffered throughout her childhood from one illness after another. It is astonishing that in later years this frail child showed an enormous strength and drove herself at an incredibly intense pace--giving 9 or 10 performances a week for more than 20 years.

When she was 8, Pavlova was taken by her mother to see the Imperial Ballet perform The Sleeping Beauty. Captivated by the enchanting ballerina and the beautiful Tchaikovsky music, she knew at that moment that her life would be dedicated to the dance. She was, however, too young at that time to be admitted to the strict Imperial Theater School which was at the Czar's court in St. Petersburg. Pavlova had to wait 2 years before undergoing the preliminary entrance examination. She was accepted--one among 7 or 8 others chosen from nearly 100 applicants.

After 7 years of arduous training under the rigid discipline of the school, Pavlova joined the Imperial Ballet at the age of 17. Her rise to the top was rapid--after only 7 years, she became the company's prima ballerina. It did not matter what Pavlova danced because of how she danced. Technique was not her only powerful asset--it was often her acting as much as her dancing that held the audience completely spellbound.

Pavlova is most famous for her interpretation of The Dying Swan. C. W. Beaumont, an English ballet critic who saw her perform this short 2 1/2-minute solo in London, wrote:

The emotion transferred was so over-powering that it seemed a mockery to applaud when the dance came to an end, our souls had soared into empyrean with the passing of the swan; only when the silence was broken could we feel that they had returned to our bodies.

This solo dance, possibly the best known in the history of ballet, was especially created for Pavlova by Michel Fokine, one of Pavlova's fellow pupils at the Imperial Theater School. He was a young choreographer, attempting a revolutionary break in the staid classical form which the ballet had retained up until that time. Fokine's ideas were not accepted by the Imperial Ballet--which appeared at the Maryinsky Theater. Pavlova was allowed to perform his works only at charity functions or, because of her status as prima ballerina, when the Maryinsky Theater was closed for vacation and she could get a leave of absence.

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