Alexandra Danilova


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(b Peterhof, 11 Nov. 1903; d New York, 13 Jul. 1997)

Russian-US dancer and teacher. She studied at the Petrograd Theatre School where her teachers included Vaganova and Preobrajenska and graduated in 1920. In 1921 she joined GATOB becoming soloist in 1922. In 1924 she left Russia with Balanchine and a small group calling themselves the Soviet State Dancers and was engaged by Diaghilev to dance with his Ballets Russes (1924–9) becoming ballerina in 1927. In 1925 and again from 1929 to 1930 she danced with Monte Carlo Opera Ballet, after which she starred in the musical Waltzes from Vienna (mus. A Rasch, London, 1931–2). She was then ballerina of de Basil's Ballets Russes (1933–8) and prima ballerina of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1938–52). She was also guest ballerina with several companies including Sadler's Wells Ballet (1949) and London Festival Ballet (1951). Between 1954 and 1956 she toured with her own group, Great Moments of Ballet, and gave her farewell performance in 1957 as a guest artist with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the New York Met. She was one of the most popular dancers of her era—technically versatile with enormous charm, elegance, and wit. Massine said her performance of the Street Dancer in his ballet Beau Danube was like ‘champagne on the stage’. She danced all the major ballerina roles, most famously Odette and Swanilda, and created principal roles in several Balanchine works including The Triumph of Neptune (1926), Le Bal (1928), Danses concertantes (1944), and La sonnambula (1946). She staged and choreographed ballets for opera as well as for several ballet companies including Coppélia for New York City Ballet (1974). Between 1964 and 1989 she was a teacher at the School of American Ballet. In 1986 she was awarded the Handel Medallion, New York, and in 1989 a Kennedy Center Award. Her autobiography, Choura, was published in New York in 1986.

Subjects: Dance.

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