Saturday, August 7, 2010
Some Notable Ballerinas Past and Present
Julie Kent in Les Sylphides
There is nothing more beautiful than to watch a graceful ballerina glide across the stage, with lithe movements and elegant precision Here is just a small list of notable ballerinas. Who is your favorite or who has influenced you?
Maria Taglioni was the pioneer of pointework which led to the change from hard shoes to ballet pumps. It was in the role that brought her to prominence, La Sylphide. designed by her father, choreographer Filippo Taglioni, that a ballet was predominantly danced on pointe. She became famous for her ethereal leaps and brilliant arabesques. She changed the ideology, methods, techniques and even the dress in the world of dance. Her flowing skirt became the modern day tutu. A clever innovator, gifted dancer and exceptional choreographer. She charmed her audiences as principal dancer for the Paris Opera, touring Europe until 1837. She joined the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg until her retirement in 1847. She spent many years after that teaching. A true artisan of artistic perfection.
Anna Pavlova, a connoisseur of the classical style was considered the most renowned ballerina of her time. She trained at the Imperial Ballet School at the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia beginning in 1891. She joined the Imperial Ballet in 1899. She debuted as their prima ballerina in 1906 at the age of 17. She was famous for her performance as the swan in Swan Lake. By 1909 she was touring in Paris with the coveted Ballet Russes. She opened her own school in Hampstead, England in 1912. Her last performance in Russia was in 1913, she spent the rest of her career touring with her own company. Graceful and powerful, an outstanding performer.
Alicia Alonso of Cuban heritage studied her craft in Havana, New York and London. What made this feat so incredible was she had been partially blind since the age of 19 due to an eye disease. Her partners had to be precise and she used the lights on stage to help her. She joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1940, considered a technical master. She founded the Ballet Alicia Alonso in Cuba in 1950 bringing her expertise to her home country. In 1960, it became known as the National Ballet of Cuba with Alicia Alonso as its director and Prima Ballerina Assoluta. She toured the USSR, China and Europe performing Giselle and Carmen with exceptional skill. A remarkable dancer and inspiration.
Margot Fonteyn is known and loved by many who have never followed ballet, she is widely acclaimed as the world's greatest ballerina. She was born Margaret (Peggy )Hookham. She joined the Vic-Well's Ballet in 1934. She became the prima ballerina with the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet in 1940.
She was admired for her brilliant proficiency and musical adaptability. She was famous for her portrayal of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. She created many roles during her career. In 1954, she became the President of the Royal Academy of Dance. In 1956, she was awarded the Dame of the British Empire. When she teamed up with Rudolph Nureyev in 1962, they danced for many years together. In 1979, Margot Fonteyn received a rare honour in Britain the title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta. Her illustrious career ended in retirement at the age of 58.
Celia Franca attended the Royal Academy of Dance on a scholarship. She debuted at age 14 and was immediately picked up by Marie Rambert's ballet company in 1936. At age 20, in 1941, she was acknowledged as the best dramatic ballerina with the Sadler's Wells Company. She became a member of the Metropolitan Ballet as its ballet mistress in 1947. She was a choreographer for television. In 1950, she was asked to establish the National Ballet of Canada, within ten months the company was up and running. She was, also, Co-Artistic Director of the School of Dance and on the Board of Directors of the Canada Dance Festival Society. In 1967, she received the Officer of the Order of Canada, in 1985 she was promoted to Companion. A strong, dynamic woman who loved her art, opening a new world of dance to the Canadian cultural scene.
Julie Kent studied at the Academy of Maryland Youth Ballet, then attended the School of American Ballet. She became a ballerina with the American Ballet in 1985. She was known as a classical expert with poise, strength, a vibrant spirit and remarkable technical skills.
In 1986, she won the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition, a first for an American. She became the American Ballet's soloist in 1990, their principal dancer in 1993. She won the Eric Bruhn Prize in Toronto that year. She was the recipient of the Prix Benois de la Danse in 2000. An unsurpassed talent with a dynamic flair.
Darcey Bussell joined the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet in 1987. She took on the leading role in The Prince of Pagodas in 1988 which led to her association with the Royal Ballet. She was awarded the lead role of principal dancer on her opening night in 1989. She created several roles such as Princess Rose, Masha and Spirit of the Fugue. A dancer with a long list of lead performances noted for her exceptional talent and artistry.