Alla Shelest


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(b Smolensk, 29 Feb. 1919; d St Petersburg, 7 Dec. 1998)

Russian dancer and teacher. She studied at the Leningrad Ballet School with E. Gerdt and Vaganova and graduated in 1937 into the Kirov Ballet where she danced until 1963. Her technique was characterized by a huge jump, lyrical fluency, and a classical purity of style. These qualities, combined with the boldness of her dramatic interpretations, made her one of the company's most popular ballerinas. Ulanova wrote of her: ‘She is a tragic and inspired ballerina. You can always recognise [her] by the perfection of the sketch, by the emotion and by the dancer's self-abandon.’ She performed many of the standard ballerina roles, famed especially for her portrayal of Nikiya in La Bayadère, and created the role of Aegina in Jacobson's Spartacus (1956) and Zarema in Fountain of Bakhchisarai. She was married for a time to Grigorovich. She performed in several ballet films and television programmes, and was artistic director of the Kuibyshev Ballet (1970–3) and ballet mistress of the Kirov (1977–9). She was made People's Artist of the Russian Federation in 1957.

Subjects: Dance.

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