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Nicolai Legat

(1869—1937)


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(b St Petersburg, 27 Dec. 1869; d London, 24 Jan. 1937)

Russian dancer, ballet master, choreographer, and teacher. He studied with his father Gustav and at the Imperial Theatre School with Gerdt, Johansson, and others. He made his debut while still a student and in 1888 graduated into the Mariinsky Theatre, becoming principal and favoured partner to ballerinas like Legnani, Pavlova, Kshessinska, and Trefilova. Although too stocky to be considered an ideal danseur noble he was a brilliant technician, dancing in over 70 ballets during his career and creating roles in Petipa's Kalkabrino (1891) and Ivanov's Nutcracker (1892), among others. In 1902 he became assistant ballet master at the Mariinsky with his brother, Sergei, becoming chief ballet master from 1910. While he choreographed a few ballets (most famously The Fairy Doll, with his brother, mus. Bayer and others, 1903), he concentrated on teaching, taking over the Mariinsky's classe de perfection from Johansson in 1905. Among his pupils were Egorova, Preobrajenska, Vaganova, Karsavina, Fokine, Nijinsky, and Bolm. After a disagreement with the Mariinsky he left in 1914, teaching in various private schools, touring music halls in Paris and London with his wife Nadine Nicolayeva, and staging ballets for the popular theatre. In 1922 he left Russia for good, unable to find a place in the emerging Soviet ballet. He took over from Cecchetti as ballet master of Diaghilev's company (1925–6) then settled in London where he taught at his own studio. His pupils included Danilova, Lopokova, de Valois, Markova, Dolin, Eglevsky, and Fonteyn. After his death the school continued in his name, later moving to Sussex. He was also a clever caricaturist, publishing Russian Ballet in Caricature (St Petersburg, 1903, English edition, 1939).

Subjects: Dance.


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