Russian ballerina who, with her famous tours, popularized ballet throughout the world.
Pavlova was born in St Petersburg. Her family was poor, as her father died when she was two, and even though she was a sickly child she passed the entrance examination to the Ballet School in St Petersburg (now the Kirov Theatre) in 1891, and by 1906 was the prima ballerina at the Russian Imperial Ballet, for whom she toured Russia and northern Europe in 1907 and 1908. After brief appearances with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris, she performed independently in New York and London. She left the Imperial Ballet in 1913 and the following year began to tour with her own company. These tours, which often involved travel to remote parts of the world, were managed by Victor Dandré, whom she married in 1914.
Pavlova's repertoire was largely classical: her most famous performances were the solo parts in Giselle and in The Dying Swan, which was choreographed especially for her by Michel Fokine. Although she did little to change the art of dancing, she was responsible for introducing ballet to people in all parts of the world. She also helped the renaissance of the dance in India and made a special study of oriental dance techniques.
In 1912 she settled in London and established a dance school in Hampstead. During the next decade her tours abroad of these performances were too much for her and she died of pneumonia at the age of forty-nine. An Anglo-Soviet film of her life, Pavlova, appeared in 1985.