Friday, September 08, 2017

Anna Pavlova - a legendary Ballerina

Anna Pavlovna (Matveyevna) Pavlova was a Russian prima ballerina and the first ballerina to tour ballet around the world. She was born on February 12, 1881 in Saint Petersburg to a single mother. Anna's mother married when Anna was three years old, and her stepfather Matvey Pavlov adopted her and gave her his surname. Her mother took her to the theater to see the ballet "The Sleeping Beauty" and Anna never forgot. She wanted to be a ballerina and came on audition for the Imperial Ballet School, where she was accepted at age 10 in 1891. Her training years were difficult, but she did not give up the training in order to improve her technique. She took lessons from the best teachers. In 1898 was her final year at the Imperial Ballet School and she performed many roles with the principal company. She graduated in 1899 at age 18 and made her official debut. Her performance drew praise from the ctitics.

Pavlova performed in various ballets. Her enthusiasm often led her astray: once during a performance  she lost her balance, and she ended up falling into the prompter's box. Her weak ankles led to difficulty while performing as the fairy Candide in Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty . Once during class she caused her teacher to fly into a rage. He told her "you have to leave acrobatics to others. I beg you to never again try to imitate those who are physically stronger than you". Pavlova rose through the ranks quickly and she was named danseuse in 1902, première danseuse in 1905, and finally prima ballerina in 1906 after a resounding performance in Giselle.

Anna Pavlova is perhaps most renowned for creating the role of the Dying Swan, a solo choreographed for her by Mikhail Fokine . The ballet, created in 1905, is danced to Le Cygne from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. She also choreographed several solos herself, one of which is The Dragonfly, a short ballet set to music by Fritz Kreisler. 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 and cared little for anything else which strayed from the salon-style ballet music of the 19th century.

By the early 20th century she had 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. In 1916 she produced a fifty-minute adaptation of The Sleeping Beauty in New York City. Members of her company were largely English girls with Russianized names. She also performed many ‘ethnic’ dances, some of which she learned from local teachers during her travels. In addition to the dances of her native Russia, she performed Mexican, Japanese, and East Indian dances. In 1915, she appeared in a film, The Dumb Girl of Portici, in which she played a mute girl betrayed by an aristocrat. 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.

Victor Dandré, her manager and companion, was her husband. He wrote of Pavlova's many charity dance performances and charitable efforts to support Russian orphans in post WWI, Paris...who were in danger of finding themselves literally in the street. They were already suffering terrible privations and it seemed as though there would soon be no means whatever to carry on their education. Fifteen girls were adopted into a home Pavlova purchased near Paris at Saint-Cloud. During her life she had many pets including a Siamese cat, various dogs and many kinds of birds, including swans. Dandré indicated she was a lifelong lover of animals and this is evidenced by photographic portraits she sat for which often included an animal she loved. A formal studio portrait was made of her with Jack, her favorite swan.
After leaving Russia, Pavlova moved to London, settling, in 1912, at the Ivy House on North End Road, 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. The house was featured in the film Anna Pavlova. While in London, Pavlova was influential in the development of British ballet. While touring in Hague 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, in the bedroom next to the Japanese Salon of the Hotel Des Indes in The Hague, three weeks short of her 50th birthday. Victor Dandré wrote that Anna Pavlova died a half hour past midnight on Friday, January 23, 1931, with her maid Marguerite Letienne, Dr. Zalevsky and himself at her bedside. Her last words were, "Get my 'Swan' costume ready".

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 urn was at Golders Green, adorned  with her ballet shoes (which have since been stolen).

The Pavlova Dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer in Wellington during her tour of New Zealand and Australia in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years.

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

In 1980, Igor Carl Fabergé 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.

Pavlova's dances inspired many artworks of the Irish painter John Lavery. The critic of The Observer wrote on 16 April 1911: 'Mr. Lavery's portrait of the Russian dancer Anna Pavlova, caught in a moment of graceful, weightless movement … Her miraculous, feather-like flight, which seems to defy the law of gravitation'

When the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, 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 WWII and was lost. In 2006, a replica of the original statue was restored in its place.

A McDonnell Douglas MD-11 of the Dutch airline KLM with the registration PH-KCH carried her name. It was delivered on August 31, 1995

Anna Pavlova appears as a character in Rosario Ferre's  novel Flight of the Swan.

Anna Pavlova appears as a character in the fourth episode of the British series Mr. Selfridge, played by real-life ballerina Natalia Kremen.

photo: from wikipedia

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